Speaking of Women's Rights: Guest post: Race and midwifery on the border

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Guest post: Race and midwifery on the border

This is a guest post from Kalpana Krishnamurthy, RACE and Gender Justice Programs director at the Western State Center. Check out the Center’s blog to read about regional news, analysis, and victories at http://www.westernstatescenter.org/blog-and-discussion.

I am 7 months pregnant with my second child, and am starting to imagine (and recall) the process of actually giving birth. For most of my adult life, I’ve seen a midwife to get my basic OB/GYN care. I like midwives, I like the vibe, and the attention and caring I’ve received. I also like the fact that I’m giving the finger to the medical establishment which has discredited and tried to limit the power of midwifery over the past 200 years.

But I’m still shocked by the recent story I read about the intersection of race and midwifery on the border. Imagine being a US citizen, trying to re-enter the country with your newborn daughter– and having your daughter’s US citizenship questioned because she was delivered by a midwife. To be absolutely clear—Yuliana Castro is a US citizen, born in Brownsville TX. Her newborn daughter is also a US citizen, born in Brownsville, TX. Both mother and daughter were delivered by midwives. And on this day, Yuliana was held and interrogated for 11 hours about their citizenship simply because they were delivered by midwives.

It’s another fantastic example of how our immigration system is broken. And how race, health care, cultural competency, and immigration are linked. For many of communities of color, going to the doctor’s office is challenging. We go into doctor’s offices where no one shares our racial or ethnic background, where assumptions get made by doctors about our health status, our risk factors, and our behaviors. Going to the doctor’s office means gearing up to advocate for yourself because your race may mean that nothing you say gets heard. So is it any wonder that Latina women would chose to deliver their children with someone who shares their cultural background, and potentially shares their first language? But in making this choice, Latinas on the border are opening themselves to racial profiling.

Questioning the ethics of midwives in the Southwest is part of a larger strategy to discredit midwives in general. Fortunately, a class action lawsuit was filed by the ACLU on behalf of the hundreds of women and children whose citizenship has been questioned because of who delivered them.

Photo credit: Jazmine Ulloa, Texas Observer