By Moonyeen King
Maternal Mortality in Mexico has an Indigenous face. Official statistics demonstrate Indigenous women have three times higher risk than non-Indigenous women of dying because of causes related to maternity.
Maternal mortality is higher in Mexico than any other countries with economic indicators. Stated by World Bank 2001.
“We have an unacceptable level of maternity deaths” noted Dr. Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos, Minister of Health 2007. Report from UNICEF, 2009. Educating girls and young women is one of the most powerful ways of breaking poverty traps and creating a supportive environment for Maternal and Newborn health. Early pregnancies, STD (sexually transmitted diseases), sexual violence and other gender related abuse, increases the risk that girls drop out of school. This entrenches the cycle of gender discrimination, poverty and the high rates of maternal and neonatal mortality.
The Tepehua Free Maternal Health program, located in Tepehua Centro Comunitario, Chapala, Mexico, was given a grant by Rotary International to assist in the care of women’s education and examinations at the Tepehua Clinic. The results were staggering. In the year 2012, 350 pap smears were taken, out of which 280 had to be treated for STD, which if untreated leads to cervical cancer. Forty women agreed to I.U.D insertion. Of the 350 breast exams, 30 were referred to Guadalajara for mammograms, which unchecked leads to breast cancer. Seven hundred and eighty women attended the counseling for abuse and family planning.
It was noted that maternal mortality declined drastically in the United States after the Women got the right to vote. When women get the political voice, their lives also became a higher priority. Professor Miller of Stanford Univ. wrote: ”Within a year of suffrage law enactment, patterns of legislative roll call voting shifted, and local public health spending rose by 35 per cent. Child mortality declined 8-15 per cent. Nationwide, these reductions translate into roughly 20,000 averted child deaths each year.”
Economist Abhiti Banerjee more recently, examined spending amongst the poor. Mexico was 8 per cent instant gratification on alcohol and fiesta, and 2 per cent on education...even though education is the most consistent escalator out of poverty. Studies suggest, when women are in control of spending, less money is spent on instant gratification, and child health and nutrition improves.
Sometimes, sexual violence is committed by a stranger. Most often it is someone the woman knows. A date or an intimate partner such as a husband or ex, or a male friend or collegue. It occurs in all socioeconomic, educational, racial and age groups. A problem world wide. The issue of power and control is the root of domestic violence. Incest with a child by an older family member leads the child to believe it is normal behavior. The worst thing about this crime is when the child realizes it is not normal, and there is no support system left. The family unit is the support system, take that away and there is nothing. This writer worked at a child abuse center in Arlington. Texas. The youngest victim of sexual abuse by a family member was three months old.
A less talked about abuse is “Reproductive Abuse.” It is a way to control by keeping her pregnant. A famous case in the States: A preacher kept his wife pregnant even though the doctors warned him, she was not mentally stable enough. Unfortunately she was jailed for life after drowning all her children in the bath tub. Another drove her children into the lake in a locked car. These are not unique cases.
With all the documentation on the subject of the oppression of women, their rights and their strengths...what is taking so long? Why is Roe verses Wade politically still being fought? Why is the horror of female genital mutilation around the world, not being dealt with? Warrior Marks, written by Alice Walker, as late as 1993 addressed this. “Oppression and the sexual blinding of women.”
In 2012, a politician in Washington, arguing against a women’s right to abortion, even in the case of rape, stated “If a women becomes pregnant after the act of rape, it is God’s will.” A statement that will go down in infamy.
In 1992, Sandra Day O’Connor wrote “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of a nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.” The empowerment of women through education and family planning.
The Tepehua Community Center, just west of Chapala, has counseling and fifty plus women go to listen to lectures on self esteem, every week, and how to handle situations of abuse by trying to defuse them. Abuse starts with small steps. Criticism is usually the first one, cutting off friends and family, and threats that the abuser will hurt the children.
Poverty and lack of education exacerbates abuse. The story is the same in every barrio across Mexico. Women too are abusers, for the same reason. Frustration and the toil of having five to seven children, no education or money coming in for the table, can drive the most nurturing of women to strike back...in her case, the target is usually the children.
Education and Family Planning information can change this cycle.
It is an appalling situation that in 2013 women are still fighting for the right to choose. That they are still a chattel that is owned by their spouse or partner.
The writer wonders what the standing of Roe v Wade would be like today, if it were the men who had the babies?
(Mexico and its stand on abortion will be discussed in another issue.)