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Immigrants, Women of Color 'Pay With Their Health' for Discrimination, Report Shows

Immigrants, Women of Color 'Pay With Their Health' for Discrimination, Report Shows

August 14, 2014 — A new report shows that U.S. "women of color and immigrant women ... pay with their health and even their lives for the race and gender discrimination that tirelessly persists in our health system," Andrea Flynn, a Roosevelt Institute fellow, writes in The Hill's "Contributors."

The report -- released Wednesday by the Center for Reproductive Rights, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health "lifts up the all too often-unheard voices and experiences of women from Atlanta, Jackson, Miss., and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas," where "[t]here are young women who encountered such stigma accessing contraception that they no longer use family planning."

In addition, the report highlights instances in which women's physicians "neglected routine pregnancy care"; women endured "active labor in the hallways of overcrowded hospitals and were told not to push because there was no delivery room available"; and "experienced unwanted and medically unnecessary cesarean sections, only to wind up with infections that went undetected," among other lapses in care.

She notes that the U.S. "has been sliding backwards on maternal health," but "the situation is particularly dire for women of color and immigrant women." For example, "Washington, D.C.'s population, which is 50 percent black, has [a maternal mortality rate] of 41.6 per 100,000 women, compared to the national average of 28," according to Flynn.

Further, "immigration status dictates women's ability to access" health care, with non-citizens "three times as likely as U.S.-born citizens to lack health coverage," and immigrant women are "70 percent more likely to not have coverage," Flynn writes.

Recommendations

The report's authors will testify this week in Geneva before the United Nations' Committee to End Racial Discrimination, Flynn notes.

The report "provides a series of recommendations that would enable the U.S. to meet its obligations under" the U.N.'s International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination "and ensure the human rights of women of color and immigrant women: increasing health coverage for low-income women and improving access to reproductive and sexual health care; improving data collection and strengthening accountability mechanisms on maternal mortality; and repealing provisions of the Affordable Care Act [PL 111-148] that exclude many immigrants from coverage," she writes. In addition, Flynn suggests that "increasing funding for Title X (the nation's family planning program) and participating in Medicaid expansion" could help to address the issue.

Flynn concludes, "A woman's race or immigration status should never determine whether she will survive childbirth or access critical cancer treatments," and the U.N. "must hold the U.S. government accountable for these grave injustices" (Flynn, "Contributors," The Hill, 8/14).