Not an Exception But a Pattern

There are connections between the reproductive injustice Haitian mothers endure as a result of medical-detention and the obstetric violence against Black and Indigenous mothers in the United States and around the world. The Black maternal and infant birth outcomes in the United States are the worst in any developed country in the world. Black mothers in the U.S. are 3-4x more likely to die from birth and postpartum complications. According to Dr. Joia Crear Perry, racism not race is the cause of Black and maternal health disparities. Hospitals in the United States and private hospitals in Haiti are both fueled by capitalism and not health care. Pregnant women in the United States and in Haiti are forced to make a decision whether to birth in a hospital and endure neglect, violence and in Haiti potential incarceration or birth at home. Global access to midwifery care could potentially be the solution. 

Julia Chinyereh Oparah points out that black women and women of color often face this impossible choice in maternal health care: they are asked to choose between a coercive birth or total neglect. This choice is posed just as coldly in the sterilized white-walled maternity wards of US urban centers, as it is posed beyond the the iron gates of US-funded Catholic hospitals, or the brightly colored clinics in Congo, or the urban centers of the Philippines.

Likna is a Haitian mother from Okap and a survivor of a Hospital-Prison operated in Haiti by a United-States based Catholic Mission Hospital:

“Okay. So when I was pregnant, there was no hope of going to the hospital. I didn’t even let that hope get into my head. There was just no way. Because I already knew I didn’t have a way to get money at all. In Haiti, they don’t see people’s lives. They don’t see your life at all. Its money they see….Because of that I never let it get into my head that I would have the chance to give birth at a hospital while I was pregnant. But, alas, my baby came before its time. At 7 months my son came. They had to put him in an incubator.  When I went into labor, I saw my water was really breaking, a lot of blood and water was coming out, and I decided, I just had to. I had to go to the hospital. I really didn’t want to lose him. Even if I didn’t have a dime to pay the hospital, fine. I had to save his life. You never know. God might be able to send someone to free me from the prison after I give birth. I went there with faith. Then, after everything, they put me in a little space, a space I couldn’t leave.”

Likna, Jan 2020

Haiti has the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the Americas, and the racialized and gendered violence of hospital-prisons press on that wound. It removes mothers and newborn babies from their access to food, community, water, toilets, clean clothing, and all-too-often further medical care. It also hurts mothers who do not go to hospitals—those who choose to treat risky symptoms with loved ones and communities at home rather than face the profound (and also potentially deadly) injustice of debt captivity.

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