Pregnant Indigenous Mexican Women Face Hospital Discrimination
Tracy Wilkinson - The Los Angeles Times
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October 28, 2013
Irma Lopez, 29, with her newborn son, Salvador, at a clinic in Jalapa de Diaz, Mexico. Mexican officials suspended two hospital directors after Lopez, an indigenous woman, was denied entry and was forced to give birth on the lawn. (Chema Alvarez/Associated Press)
MEXICO CITY — Irma Lopez, a Mazatec Indian, waited to receive attention at a medical clinic in Oaxaca, but her labor pains became overwhelming. Spurned by the nurses, she retreated outdoors — and abruptly gave birth to a baby boy on the hospital lawn.
A few days later, it was revealed that two other pregnant indigenous women had also been turned away from Oaxaca hospitals, one of whom also delivered on the lawn, and that a fourth woman had been forced to have her baby on the reception floor at a hospital in Puebla.
On Oct. 6, yet another woman, Susana Hernandez, of the indigenous Tzotzil community in Chiapas state, died after childbirth in what relatives and maternal rights advocates say may have been medical negligence.
The cases have underlined the inferior treatment often given to Mexico's indigenous communities, especially women. They have prompted new demands for greater access to healthcare, especially for Mexico's poor, and, unusually, have resulted in punishment for several hospital managers.
"The right to health protection is a fundamental right … especially for pregnant women," Mexico's human rights ombudsman, Raul Plascencia, said. He opened investigations in the Oaxaca and Puebla cases. "The vulnerability of indigenous communities is worse for women, who suffer a lack of basic material needs and services."
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