Tuesday, January 22, 2013

For reproductive justice…


On the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade...

I do not blog for choice.

I blog for reproductive justice.

Her name was Anna Brown.

She was 29 years old and lived in my hometown of St. Louis city.

As I gaze at her mug shot gazing back at me from the online news article, I can’t help but wonder if I ever crossed her path…if I ever drove by Anna and her 2 children or sat beside her on the train.

I blog for the right to have children.

Anna Brown lost her home in the 2010 tornado that hit the area.

She lost her job at a sandwich shop sometime after.

She lost her children when child welfare agents determined that the ramifications of poverty and unemployment created unfit living conditions.

I blog for the right not to have children.

And Anna lost her life, after hours of unimaginable agony due to blood clots in her legs, on the floor of a jail cell in St. Louis County.

Anna Brown arrived in that jail cell because she refused to leave the emergency room at St. Mary’s Health Care. 

I blog for the right to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments.

St. Mary’s felt that Anna was trespassing.  In a statement after the circumstances of Anna Brown’s death were made public, the hospital all but admitted that her impoverished state was a factor in the poor care given and the callous disregard paid to Anna Brown.

“The sad reality is that emergency departments across the country are often a place of last resort for many people in our society who suffer from complex social problems that become medical issues when they are not addressed. It is unfortunate that it takes a tragic event like this to call attention to a crisis in our midst.”

Some people hear the tale of Anna Brown and think that she got was she deserved…an agonizing death on the floor of a jail cell caught on tape while police officers ignored her moans of pain.

Others feel that Anna’s story is a sad reflection of the limits of medicine…they buy the lie that Anna’s care was not related to her poverty and that the hospital would have done the same shit if Anna Brown had been a middle class white soccer mom.

But many of us in the movement know better…just as we know that far too many people have a pro-choice battle plan even though we are fighting a reproductive justice war.

There can be no peace…no rest…no big win or huge victory.

There can be no celebration until the Anna Brown’s of the world are given care and support.

Until the Sybrina Fulton’s of the world can welcome their son’s home instead of plan their funerals.

Until the right to have children, not have children, and to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments guides our public policy and is our communities' focus.

Until then and because of all that and so much more, I blog…I work…I act for reproductive justice.

For Anna, I pledge to never forget and never give up.

6 comments:

Tameka said...

Thanks for being a voice for women on this most sensitive issue. www.venusblogs.com

Heidi Williamson said...

Sister, this was AMAZING!!! Love it. Heidi

rdowli said...

This poor woman was treated so wrong at every point. There is a law that is SUPPOSED to prevent people from being turned away from emergency rooms with out an examination by a doctor to determine whether an emergency exists or not. It sounds like this was a violation of the federal EMTALA Statute. I had to do a research paper on EMTALA for a hospital system I worked for. My research demonstrated that the people who died most often as a result of being refused care due to poverty/lack of insurance were women of color. I read some sickening stories of how these women were treated. And what kind of police officer, who ostensibly is there to "Protect & to Serve," leaves a woman lying on the floor in obvious pain? As a nurse, i can tell you that blood clots are horrifically painful. How many more women have to die before it starts to matter? As far as reproductive rights go, sadly, this shouldn't even be an issue in the 21st century, or ANY century! We need to all work together to preserve women's freedoms in all areas.

NancyP said...

The problem is larger than the well-known phenomenon of patient dumping. EMTALA itself doesn't help fund emergency rooms or urgent care facilities. City charity hospitals no longer exist, largely because hospitals can't survive without having a majority of their patients privately insured or covered by Medicare. Medicaid reimbursement and free care don't pay enough to keep a hospital afloat. All of the North Side hospitals and the St. Louis City #1, #2 (Homer G. Phillips segregated hospital), and the succeeding City Hospital have all gone under.

This woman was mentally ill and homeless. It is likely that she had inadequate mental illness treatment. There are no state mental hospitals to provide shelter and continuity for those people that can't make it in the outside world. There is no continuity in the homeless shelter system, which is inadequate anyway.

She had no advocate. Most people come to the ER accompanied by a family member or neighbor/friend who can talk to the triage nurse and doctor to give a coherent account of what symptoms happened at what time, and perhaps what treatment or tests were performed. The ER patient without support and with altered mental status or difficulty communicating is much more vulnerable to poor care. Add poor, black, homeless, without significant medical records at that hospital, and absent some obvious physical evidence of disease that could cause pain, a lot of nurses and doctors will conclude that the ER patient is "seeking drugs". (Many drug-dependent people do try to get drugs from the ER, usually opiates.) ERs no longer have the overflow capacity waiting rooms and "drunk tanks" where waiting patients can be checked occasionally by triage and social services personnel, and no longer admit people for observation or psychiatric evaluation without an admitting diagnosis.

The whole system is f'ed.

dana said...

thank you -- beautiful. Sing.

MaMa Wendy said...

I really like your writing and your commentary. Thank you!
Please check out my site:
http://www.MillionMamasMovement.org
Best,
Wendy