Latino’s born to midwives will no longer be denied passports

An update to this story from almost a year ago. It was reported by the NY Times that Latinos born near the border to midwives were having their citizenship challenged.

Well some good news for us on this front from the ACLU:

Pending court approval, DOS will train its staff on how to fairly weigh all the evidence provided in passport applications and how to avoid improperly subjecting people whose births were assisted by midwives in Texas and along the U.S.-Mexico border to heightened scrutiny in reviewing their passport applications.

All denials will be automatically reviewed by a three-member panel comprised of experienced DOS staff members, and if that panel also denies an application, DOS must communicate the specific reasons for the denial to the applicant. The applicant can then challenge the denial and ask DOS to reconsider its decision.

Additionally, anyone birthed by a midwife who has filed an application for a passport between April 2003 and September 15, 2008 and, with a few exceptions, whose application was not expressly “denied,” can re-apply for free. DOS will be setting up mobile units across the border on specific dates to assist those reapplying.

Via Latina Lista


Immigrant woman’s baby taken away because she couldn’t communicate with hospital staff

Thanks to Indra Lusero for posting this on facebook, from RaceWire:

In Pascagoula, Mississippi, in November 2008, Cirila Baltazar Cruz gave birth to a baby girl. Soon after, her daughter was taken away from her because she could not communicate with the hospital attendants.

Far away from her native Oaxaca, Mexico, she did not understand the Puerto Rican interpreter assigned to her. Cirila speaks Chatino, an indigenous Mexican language spoken by about 50,000 people. A social worker called in by hospital authorities deemed the new mother negligent and unfit to raise the baby, stating as reasons that she was an “illegal immigrant” and that she did not speak English.

Baltazar Cruz is up for deportation, while her daughter is reported to be with an affluent Ocean Springs couple.

The way immigrant women are abused in this country is incredible and so saddening. Not being able to communicate with the hospital staff is the HOSPITAL’s issue, not the mother’s.

New video about doulas, with one glaring omission

Doulas of color.

I’m all for videos that promote the work of doulas, but we need these materials to reflect all doulas and moms. It may be a small group, but they are out there. We’re never going to be able to reach out to a wide range of mothers if we don’t show people that doula care, midwifery care, out-of-hospital care, is not just for affluent white people.

Let’s work on this, please?

Sterilization revisited


Comic from

This comic, which was created in 2007, I just found in a trackback.

It was inspired by this post I wrote: Sterilization: Abuse vs Access, in response to something Ann wrote at Feministing: Careful, or you’ll regret not reproducing.

That post remains the most highly trafficked post at Radical Doula ever. As the comic points out, it’s these inconsistencies that really highlight the racism in our medical profession. It’s indicative of racism that exists much more broadly, but these moments really bring it to light. Especially now that the green/global warming/environmental movement is kicking into high gear, racist population control thoughts and policies are even more likely.

Lost in translation

My inspiration for this post.

I’m bilingual. I spoke Spanish before I spoke English because I grew up with two Cuban immigrant parents. My mom likes to joke about how she dropped me off at my preschool in my mostly White Southern town and handed the teacher a Spanish/English dictionary so she could communicate with me.

Being bilingual gives you an interesting lens on the world. Mine is particularly interesting because although I am Latina, you wouldn’t necessarily know by looking at me. I pass, most of the time, as white. That means a lot of things, some of which I may some day tackle here, but in this context it means I get to hear things, in both languages, that other people don’t.

As a doula this was particularly enlightening/challenging because I got to hear and understand everything a doctor was saying but not communicating to their patient when she didn’t speak English. I got to witness the jokes between doctors, the decisions about care that were being made without consultation, the idle chatter and conversation that they carried on in her presence. Then I had to make a decision. Do I tell her what they are saying?

I was taught that a doula shouldn’t be a translator. My doula trainer explained, with the best of intentions, that those roles should be separate. Just like a doula doesn’t replace a partner, they can’t replace a translator.

That’s great in an ideal world, where everyone has exactly what they need. But let’s remember where we live: planet not so ideal. On this planet, translators are only brought in when there is paperwork to be signed. On this planet, doctors/medical students/nurses with a working knowlege of Spanish get to communicate with the patient when and if they want to. On this planet, a Spanish speaking doula may be the only thing helping a Spanish speaking mom/family/partner feel safe.

So I had to make decisions. Constantly. Decisions about when to translate, what to translate, how to translate. Having to be a filter never felt good, even when I felt like I was protecting her from hearing something she wouldn’t want to hear.  I didn’t want to be the only one in the room who could communicate her needs/questions/concerns to her providers. I didn’t want that power.

What would my ideal world look like? Well, first of all, women would get treated exactly the same regardless of what language they spoke. Doctors/nurses/people wouldn’t talk about a patient in a language she didn’t understand in front of her. They would get consent for everything they did, before they did, and explain every step along the way. 

And that’s just the beginning.

Latina immigrant who was shackled during labor now faces deportation

Juana Villega de la Paz made news this summer when she was detained by a police officers for driving without a license while 9 months pregnant. She was found to have no documents and ended up giving birth with in detention and was treated as a securty threat. She was shackled during parts of her labor, a practice that occurs at jails and prisons around the country but is being actively contested.

Juana was released after the birth of her child and told to report to the authorities each month. She just received news that she will be deported the next time she reports.

This story highlights a number of things: the inhumane way people are treated while incarcerated, the way undocumented immigrants are being treated like they are violent or dangerous criminals and the ahborrent state of our immigration policy.

Juana is currently using legal venues to prevent her deportaiton. She has four American citizen children.

One main cause of health disparities? Racism.

This is not surprising.

In 2004, black women were nearly four times as likely to die in childbirth as white women nationwide, and had a maternal death rate of 34.7 per 100,000 live births compared to 9.3 deaths per 100,000 live births for white women.

I’ve talked about maternal mortality before, and how the US is at the bottom of the rankings for the developing world. You also probably already know that women of color face disproportionately high rates of infant mortality, low birth weights and maternal mortality. This article discusses how a new set of reports called the Safe Motherhood reports try to delve deeper into understanding why these risk factors vary. There are the obvious ones we could come up with (no MPH degree necessary) like poverty, lack of access to prenatal care, stress and racism. But these studies are finding something more puzzling:

But one chart shows that black women with adequate prenatal care died at a rate comparable to that of white women with inadequate prenatal care — which hints at a medical mystery a small field of researchers are trying to explain. While some analysts emphasize a lack of health care and poverty to explain high maternal mortality rates among black women, newer studies have indicated that regardless of a black woman’s income and education levels, black women are more likely to die having a baby than white and Latina women.

When we discuss health disparities it’s super important to talk about RACISM. Why? Because a fact like that one above can easily lead to conclusions about the genetic predisposition to maternal mortality, for example. So instead of furthering delving into an understanding of how racism and poverty might affect these women (even if it’s not the poverty that they themselves are currently living under), one could argue that black women are simply predisposed to risk factors that can increase the risk of maternal mortality.

Similar arguments are being made about things like heart disease, or diabetes, for the Black community as well as Latinos. I think we need to be clear about what these health disparities tell us: that racism exists and has a serious and LASTING effect on the experiences of people of color. This effect is so powerful that not even improving ones class status via income or education can erase it. That’s one side of it. The other side of it is that even educated, wealthy women of color still experience the effects of racism on their health and wellbeing. And when I say racism, I don’t just mean prejudice between individual people. I also mean institutional racism, which establishes systems that favor certain racial groups over others. Like the prison industrial complex. Or the public education system. These things have an impact on the overall health of a community.

I could get into a whole diatribe (similar to ones I’ve gotten into around gender difference) about the social construction and lack of biological link to race difference. But I won’t, because I think overall we are beyond that. Doesn’t mean sometimes these things don’t sometimes need restating. To conclude: it’s important to study health disparities and race, so we can document where more work needs to be done. But the point is not to make essentializing statements about the differences between the races. Definitely not.

Note: the above article did a good job of talking about the social factors affecting this, I just used it as an opening to talk more about this issue.