Women’s rights activists met Thursday to appeal to the global health community to help Mexican women who are being forced to give birth on lawns, patios or parking lots.
Activists working in villages in southern Mexico say they have documented at least 20 women who were forced to give birth outside of a hospital because they were told there was no room, reports The Associated Press.
The problem garnered national attention last year when a video of Irma Lopez, 29, showed her squatting in pain immediately after giving birth to her son in October. The birth happened on the lawn outside the Rural Health Center of the village of San Felipe Jalapa de Diaz. A photo was posted on social media sites.
More cases were soon reported after Lopez’s photo circulated online. Two women came forward with their own stories of giving birth in front of the same center where Lopez gave birth. In another case, an 18-year-old woman told of giving birth in the bathroom of a shelter next to a hospital after being turned away. Television stations in Oaxaca state showed a woman giving birth in a dark courtyard outside the General Hospital of Huajuapan de Leon. A director of another hospital was fired after a video showing a woman giving birth in the waiting room was posted to YouTube.
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“'These are not isolated cases. We have a pattern. We are not talking about one woman. There are many and nothing is being done to solve the problem,' said Regina Tames, director of the Reproductive Choice Information Group, a non-governmental organization based in Mexico City.
Pablo Kuri Morales, Mexico’s deputy health secretary for preventative care, said most of the births in the country’s health system occur without problems but that hundreds of women still die every year during or immediately after giving birth. Mexico’s maternal death rate is more than three times higher in the United States.
“This is something the government of Mexico is worried about. Our stand now is to reject, disapprove and fight with all our strength any form of violence against women,” the Daily Mail quoted Morales as saying.
President Enrique Pena Nieto asked earlier this month that hospitals not turn away women in labor. Just this week, local media reported having contractions who had been sent away by a hospital and was re-admitted only after photographers arrived.
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The AP reports that the human rights commission will study the cases heard Thursday and can send resolutions that are non-binding based on what it finds.