Exciting Progress for Health Care Equality!

A mother holds her infant during a check-up at a clinic for low-income families. ©John Moore/Getty Images

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.


Knock on Congress’ Door to Stop Pregnancy-related Deaths

By Chris McGraw, Grassroots Advocacy Director at Amnesty International USA

lobby_imageFrom March 29-April 9th, we’re sending clusters of human rights supporters out to the front lines in their home districts to meet with Senators and Representatives.

The purpose of these visits is to educate members of Congress about the shocking rates of pregnancy-related deaths among women in the United States. The awful truth behind these appalling numbers is that half of these deaths can be prevented. Women are dying because they simply can’t afford to access proper maternal care.

These groups, or delegations, that will help raise awareness about this tragedy, play an essential role in keeping human rights central to the health care debate. Right now we are looking for people who can help us coordinate these meetings locally.  There are a few things you should know first before you consider going head-to-head with your Senator or Representative:

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!

Posted in USA

Nicaragua's Abortion Ban Is Endangering Women's Lives

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.

Now, all of this was shockingly, appallingly predictable — but the full litany of violations makes terrible reading. That the Nicaraguan health minister is dismissing the report just shows how hard human rights supporters will have to push to overturn the ban.

Take action today!

Read the whole report (or the digest), o en Español (digest).

Lilli Evans contributed to this post.