The image on the cover of Mexican publication La Razón magazine of a 29-year-old mother of giving birth on the lawn of a Mexican clinic after being turned away is sending shockwaves through the world.
When Irma arrived at the clinic, La Razón said they did not even open the door for her. The nurses told her it was too early because she was eight months pregnant, that she should go for a walk, and that a doctor would check on her in the morning. Irma and her husband, who are of indigenous Mazatec ethnicity and do not speak much Spanish, had walked an hour from their one-bedroom hut in the mountains, so they stayed near the clinic where she delivered the baby an hour and a half later. For support she held on to the side of a neighboring house and endured the pain alone because her husband had gone back in an attempt to get help from a nurse. Someone passing by took the photo and gave it to a reporter.
When Irma was contacted by the Associated Press, she explained the ordeal, and lamented “I didn’t want to deliver like this. It was so ugly and with so much pain.” Irma was admitted to the clinic after giving birth, and both she and the baby were released the same day in good health.
In the aftermath of the provocative photo the state of Oaxaca suspended Dr. Adrian Cruz, the medical center’s director. The nurses involved blamed the incident on the language barrier and lack of staff.
The image puts an emotional perspective on a disturbing reality in Mexico, where maternal healtcare appears to be lacking, especially for indigenous women. “The photo is giving visibility to a wider structural problem that occurs within indigenous communities: Women are not receiving proper care. They are not being offered quality health services, not even a humane treatment,” said Mayra Morales, a rep for Mexico’s national Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights.
According to the World Health Organization, Mexico experiences 50 deaths per 100,000 births which is similar to rates in Libya, Barbados and Kazakhstan. To compare, the U.S. rate is 16 per 100,000.