Gaby Rodriguez Corona comes from community where teen parents are fairly common. After getting “the talk” from her mom, who had been a teen parent herself, and after babysitting her siblings, Gaby considered herself scared straight. However, she couldn’t help noticing how poorly people treated pregnant teens. Corona wondered if she, a well-respected student in the top 5% at her school, would receive the same ire if she became pregnant. Gaby, then 17, thought she’d try pregnancy out herself, but only as a social experiment for her senior thesis. Along the way, she got an inside look at how people write off and mistreat pregnant teens and served those very people a lesson in humanity when she revealed the truth to the entire school.
You’re in El Salvador. You just found out you’re pregnant with your second child, in a country growing more and more dangerous. The decision is obvious. You take your 3-year-old daughter and make the treacherous journey from El Salvador to the United States, all the while, growing more and more pregnant. After a long journey, you finally arrive at the border to stake your family’s claim for asylum, and, all of a sudden, you start to experience contractions. Just in time, right?
For the anonymous woman whose story this belongs to, timing is everything, but is seemingly meaningless in her case for asylum. U.S. Border Patrol simply gave her medication to stop the contractions and sent her to wait for her hearing, scheduled on November 14, in a tent city, under a bridge in Matamoros, Mexico.
The Salvadoreña likely expected to receive ongoing medical attention, but has since been living in a tent.
At eight-and-a-half-months pregnant, the Salvadoran woman crossed the Rio Grande with her 3-year-old daughter. Agents took her to a the Valley Regional Medical Center, a U.S. hospital, to receive the medical attention she needed. There, she was given medicine to stop the contractions, and was immediately sent back to Matamoros, Mexico to live in a “makeshift tent camp,” according to AP.
Due to give birth any day now, she’s worried she’ll give birth in the street.
Her lawyer, Jodi Goodwin, told ABC News, “She’s concerned about having the baby in the street or having to have the baby in a shelter.” The Salvadoran mother, who requests to remain anonymous, is scheduled for her asylum hearing on November 14. That also means that she will likely have to care for a newborn infant while living in a tent.
The tent cities in Mexico aren’t any better than the concentration camps in the U.S. Access to meals, clean water and medical care are unreliable. Pregnant woman are especially vulnerable.
Meanwhile, Trump has boasted of his “Remain in Mexico” program as “winning” for the U.S.
After The Washington Post voiced criticism over Trump’s “Summer of Losses,” his campaign immediately pushed out a video claiming a “Summer of Winning” for the administration. The Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the “Remain in Mexico”, program is considered a win for Trump and a humanitarian crisis for much of the world.
After Trump threatened Mexico with outrageous tariffs, Mexico agreed to the deal, allowing the U.S. to outsource its responsibility toward asylum-seekers to Mexico. Now, asylum seekers are turned away at the border and forced to live in tent cities while they await their court date. Effectively, it prohibits asylum seekers from building a life for themselves, or from having adequate access to housing while they await their court dates.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has exempted “vulnerable populations” from the new policy.
But U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is unclear on whether pregnant women fall into that category. In a statement, CBP said, “In some cases, pregnancy may not be observable or disclosed, and may not in and of itself disqualify an individual from being amenable for the program. Agents and officers would consider pregnancy, when other associated factors exist, to determine amenability for the program.”
CBP seems to suggest that they’re off the hook if they can’t ‘obviously’ tell if the woman is pregnant.
“In this particular case, this woman was actually taken to the hospital by CBP,” Goodwin told the Associated Press. “There’s no way that CBP could suggest that her pregnancy wasn’t known.” This woman isn’t even the first pregnant woman the U.S. has turned back to Mexico. She is at least the seventh pregnant woman to be turned away since the policy was enacted this summer.
These women are afraid that if their children become Mexican nationals, it would hurt their asylum case.
On top of that, they are not being provided any services. According to Lina Villa, a Mexican official for Doctors Without Borders, nobody is informing the women of their rights to see a doctor for pre-natal check ups. Mexico offers free, limited health coverage to anyone who asks. The women don’t know they’re allowed to ask. They don’t even know where to go when the time comes to give birth.
For the Trump administration, this is what “winning” looks like.
On the topic of imprisonment and the people behind bars, oftentimes the most vulnerable group isn’t the most visible. It’s no secret that black and brown men are unjustifiably locked up, but minority women are as well. A 2014 report published by the Vera Institute of Justice and The Safety and Justice Challenge showed that minority women are being locked more than any other group, and many of them are mothers, and thousands of them are pregnant. How does the correctional facility handle these women? Appallingly.
A 27-year-old woman gave birth alone while behind bars and received no medical care during her entire labor.
Diana Sanchez was locked up at eight months pregnant on identity theft charges. The report by the Vera Institute shows that most women are jailed for nonviolent crimes, so it is unclear why they couldn’t help Sanchez as she was not a threat to anyone. On July 30, she was examined by a nurse who in turn told her “that she needed to receive immediate medical attention if she ‘started having contractions if she had noticed any fluid leaking from her vagina,'” USA Today reports.
For the next several hours Sanchez pleaded for help. She called on anyone that could hear her that she was having contractions, but no one ever came.
According to the New York Times, at least one person did come to her door. The video footage shows that someone slid a white mat under Sanchez’s cell door. How would a mat help during this process? Minutes later, her baby was born. He was born at a little over five pounds. Medical personal did attend to the baby after he was born. Her due date was still more than a week away. Yes, this is cruel but is it illegal for prison officials to not provide medical attention to someone who is in desperate need of help, let alone to someone who is in labor?
An attorney for Sanchez said it is illegal for prison officials to turn their back on a pregnant woman in labor, and that is why they’re filing a lawsuit.
“What should have been one of the happiest days of her life was instead a day of unnecessary terror, pain, and humiliation,” the lawsuit said. Sanchez is suing the city and county of Denver, Denver Health and Hospital Authority, and six individuals — two nurses and four sheriff’s deputies.
Her lawyer, Mari Newman, said her client is traumatized over what happened to her in jail. If some women experience postpartum depression after they give birth, just imagine the pain that Sanchez must be under after experiencing such trauma.
“Diana is struggling,” Newman said in an interview with the New York Times. “She continues to flash back to the event. She was absolutely petrified, and nobody would do anything to give her the medical care that she so obviously needed. This is the kind of trauma that doesn’t go away.”
In response to this lawsuit, the Denver Sheriff Department released this statement to the New York Times, “To make sure nothing like this happens again, the Denver Sheriff Department has changed its policies to ensure that pregnant inmates who are in any stage of labor are now transported immediately to the hospital.”
They also report that after an internal investigation, their employees acted in accordance with their policy. In other words, not helping a woman who is behind bars and is in labor is proper protocol. Sanchez has since been released and is at home recovering with her baby boy.
More than 12,000 pregnant women are put behind bars every year, the American Civil Liberties Union reports. Some of them are forced to have their babies while being shackled to their bed.
“I felt like a farm animal,” Michelle Aldana said of her experience giving birth while in prison and chained to her hospital bed.
Each state has different laws that either requires women to be shackled en route to the hospital or while giving birth but this there is no hard law across the board, which gives way for major liberties when it comes to pregnant women in jails.
Democratic lawmakers have tried to pass the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act which would allow prison officials to remove the women’s cuff and chains while giving birth, but only some states have agreed to this policy.