But it’s happening in Mexico. A lot. As the Miami Herald reports, in the remote city of Huajuapan de Leon, near Oaxaca, women are being forced to give birth on the sidewalk in front of the hospital.
Nancy Salazar Lopez was checked by doctors who turned her away, saying there weren’t enough doctors and she wasn’t ready, even after her water broke and a crowd gathered. She ended up giving birth on the steps in front of a group of strangers.
The event isn’t an unusual one. Seven women have given birth on the lawns or steps of hospitals or health clinics in Oaxaca and Puebla since last year. The women turned away are mostly darker-skinned from Mexico’s native groups, which has led to calls of discrimination and racism. As the Orlando Sentinel notes, the cases also highlight policies that need revamping. There is a shortage of doctors as hospitals are swamped with routine pregnancies that could be managed in clinics or at home with midwives. But after a 1983 constitutional amendment gave every Mexican the legal right to healthcare and a subsequent mandate in Oaxaca to combat infant mortality required that all pregnant women give birth in clinics and hospitals, there just isn’t enough room.
State Health Secretary German Tenorio Vasconcelos said he’s doing what he can. He said he has a zero tolerance policy and has fired four physicians and suspended two others in cases where pregnant women were turned away. But is punishing overworked doctors the answer? Firing doctors when physicians are already so desperately needed?
The attitude of medical workers toward poor, indigenous women has also come under scrutiny.
“The women arrive and say, I’m about to give birth.’ They say, No, you’re not ready yet,’ ” said Maria Cristina Galante of Nueve Lunas, a nonprofit advocacy group for maternal health in the Oaxacan capital.
“The doctors speak to them in medical terms Your cervix isn’t fully dilated’ and the women don’t understand,” said Ana Maria Hernandez, a women’s rights activist and the head of the nonprofit Consortium for Parliamentary Dialogue and Fairness in Oaxaca.
The situation is certainly a complex one that won’t be quickly remedied but needs the international spotlight shined in its direction so a solution can eventually be reached. It’s also a chance for us to feel grateful we live in America where, even though healthcare is so messed up, I can’t imagine a pregnant woman being turned away from a hospital.