As Amnesty International’s recent reports on maternal health have highlighted, discrimination in health care in the United States is severe and pervasive. But recently introduced legislation would help end discrimination and improve the quality of health care in the United States.
Last month, Congresswoman Barbara Lee from California introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2011 (HEAA). Passing this legislation will help eliminate disparities in access to health care and in health outcomes for communities of color. The HEAA ensures that a full range of culturally appropriate public health services are available and accessible to communities of color, and that services are available in the languages used by those communities. The bill also provides training opportunities for health care workers to better address particular health issues facing marginalized communities.
1) Senators and Representatives aren’t as mean as they look on TV. Now don’t get us wrong, they aren’t angels either, but for the most part, we find that elected officials enjoy sitting down face-to-face with their constituents. They are public servants and can only represent you if they know where you stand on the issues. After meeting with our delegations, we’ve seen members of Congress change their tune on our issues – signing on to letters of support or even voting in favor of human rights!
2) There is power in numbers. Even though your delegations are made up of a few people, you’re not just at the Congressional office as a small group; you’re representing a movement of millions. As a representative of Amnesty International, your reputation precedes you. When you stand up for human rights, you never stand alone.
3) Preparation is key. We won’t let you go in there unprepared. In fact, our government relations experts are on-hand to answer all your questions about how to organize an effective meeting and present the issue clearly. We’ve put together step-by-step guides and other instructional materials to ensure that you feel prepared before you meet with your elected officials.
I hope you’ll consider joining our fight to prevent pregnancy-related deaths. We will not back down until a woman’s right to a safe childbirth is fully protected!
Since July 2008, abortion in all circumstances has been banned in Nicaragua. The new law makes no exceptions for terminating pregnancies that endanger the health or life of the woman, or that result from rape or incest. Girls or women seeking or obtaining abortions are subject to imprisonment. Health care professionals providing abortions — or even unintentionally injuring a fetus — face jail time and being barred from practice.
A new Amnesty International report, The Total Abortion Ban in Nicaragua, details the effects of the new measures. Medical professionals are put in an impossible situation: they’re prevented, on pain of criminal prosecution, from providing essential medical services — in direct contradiction of best-practice guidelines from the Ministry of Health. Women who need abortions to preserve their health — or lives — have to find doctors willing to risk prosecution and suspension of their license, or seek out dangerous back-alley terminations.
The ban has a chilling effect, too, on women suffering obstetric complications: one woman admitted to a hospital following a miscarriage was so frightened that she would be charged with having an abortion that she asked doctors not to intervene. The rate of maternal deaths in Nicaragua has increased: Official figures show that 33 girls and women have died in pregnancy or childbirth so far this year, up from 20 in the same period a year ago.
Finally, girls and women who become pregnant as a result of sexual violence must either carry the pregnancy to term, or look for risky, clandestine abortions. Our researchers spoke with women, raped by relatives, who were forced to give birth — sometimes to their own brothers or sisters. In every case, it’s low-income women who are hit hardest — richer Nicaraguans are able to travel abroad to escape the ban.