Women’s rights activists met on Thursday to seek international help for Mexican women who are being forced to have their babies in the street. Health officials say that it is due to overcrowded hospitals, but women’s rights activists say that it is more than that. They believe there is a pattern of turning away indigenous Mexican women.
There are at least 20 recent cases that involve Mexican women in southern Mexico villages giving birth in the streets outside of hospitals after being turned away. The women arrive at hospitals in labor and are turned away because the staff says there is no room for them.
The issue of Mexican women being forced to have their babies in the street began gathering national attention when a video of Irma Lopez, 29, was taken in October of last year. The video shows Lopez squatting in pain immediately following the birth of her son. The birth occurred on the lawn of Rural Health Center, which is located in the village of San Felipe Jalapa de Diaz. The picture was shared on social media sites.
After Lopez’s picture was shared, more women came forward with tales that echoed her experience. Two women shared their stories of giving birth in front of the same center where Lopez gave birth. An 18-year-old woman told of giving birth in the bathroom of a shelter near another center after being turned away. Television stations showed a video of a woman giving birth outside of yet another center. A director of another hospital was fired after a video was posted to YouTube that showed a woman giving birth in the waiting room.
Mexican health care officials say that the cases of Mexican women being forced to have their babies in the street are isolated, and are occurring as a result of overcrowding at hospitals. They say that limited resources are also to blame, but activists think there is more to it than that.
Regina Tames, director of Reproductive Information Group, which is a non-governmental organization, says that this is not the case, adding that these are not isolated incidents and that this is occurring much more frequently. Tames also stated that there is “nothing being done to solve the problem.” Activists believe that it is prejudice towards indigenous Mexican women that is causing this to happen.
Deputy Health Secretary for Preventive Care, Pablo Kuri Morales, expressed the Mexican government’s concern over this situation and stated that their goal is to fight and reject any violence towards women. Kuri Morales also discussed that while the majority of births in Mexico happen without complications, there are still hundreds of women whose lives end each year in childbirth-related deaths. The maternal death rate in Mexico is more than three times higher than America’s.
President Enrique Pena Nieto has asked earlier this month that hospitals not turn away women who are in labor. Just this week, a women in labor was turned away from a hospital, but after cameras began filming at the hospital, the woman was admitted. If not for the negative publicity, it is possible that the hospital would not have admitted her, forcing her and other Mexican women to have their babies in the street.
By Ashley Campbell