Victim of forced contraception awaits public apology to set precedent in Mexico

Mexico City, Jun 14 (EFE).- Angelica Juarez, a victim of obstetric violence and forced contraception, has been waiting for three years to have the damage done to her repaired and for a public apology from a Mexico City hospital, seeking to set a precedent for women here to keep cases like this from happening.

“I don’t want what happened to me to happen to other women and to other babies because the consequences can really be terrible,” Juarez said in an interview with EFE.

The woman – a member of one of the 15 original peoples in Iztapalapa, a heavily populated and mostly lower class district in eastern Mexico City – said that during and after her pregnancy she experienced various forms of obstetric violence, mainly because of her poverty but also linked to her indigenous origins.

She said that on Aug. 11, 2020, when she was in the 38th week of her pregnancy, she went to have a checkup at the Emiliano Zapata Community Hospital, administered by the Mexican Health Secretariat (Sedesa), in Mexico City but, given that she had preeclampsia – high blood pressure during pregnancy – she was hospitalized on an emergency basis for a Caesarean.

At that point, she said, hospital staff asked her what kind of contraceptive method she would be using after giving birth, to which she answered that she didn’t want to use any of the available methods, and they then gave her a document to sign whereby she took responsibility for her decision.

Despite that, she claimed, medical personnel implanted a contraceptive device in her without respecting her wishes.

“They placed a IUD (intrauterine device) in me without my consent,” she said.

Juarez admitted that she didn’t realize what had happened until days later, when she experienced sharp pains in her uterus and hemorrhaging, for which she went back to the hospital and they informed her that her discharge sheet said that she had received a contraceptive implant.

That news surprised her and she asked the female doctor to locate the IUD but she could not find it until an X-ray was taken.

“I got scared, and I said: Do I have an implant? Do I have an IUD? Do I have both? What happened? What did they do to my body? What did they do to me? Just that? Did they put something else inside me and why did they do it? I mean, they made me feel … abused and as if I’d been invaded,” she said.

Obstetric violence is common in Mexico and, according to the Elective Reproduction Information Group (GIRE), it includes “any action or omission by public or private health personnel against women during (medical) attention for pregnancy, giving birth or post-partum.”

According to the 2021 National Survey on Home Dynamics and Relations, over the previous five years 33.4 percent of Mexican women between 15 and 49 who had given birth suffered some kind of mistreatment by the health care personnel attending them.

Juarez said that upon returning home she decided to sue the hospital for obstetric violence because, in addition, during her hospital stay she could not nurse her baby because she was not producing milk and the hospital personnel did not want to provide her with any baby formula.

“I asked (the head nurse) if she could give formula to the baby because she’d gone almost 24 hours without eating, because I was hardly (producing any milk), and she told me: ‘Look, if you all are going to be bad mothers, it’s better not to have children,'” Juarez said.

She obtained a writ of amparo in 2021 in which for the first time “it is legally recognized that forced contraception exists, that it is a violation of human rights and that therefore there must be comprehensive reparation for the damage.”

The judge issuing the writ ordered the Commission for Attention to Victims to follow a four-point plan to repair the damage that included economic compensation, a training plan for hospital personnel, psychological treatment and a public apology that the magistrate must approve, setting a deadline of April 30 for that plan to be implemented.

“June 9 should have been the date, after they had already been postponing it, and on Thursday night they called me on the phone and said: ‘You know what? The apology has been canceled and we don’t have a date for when we’ll do it,” Juarez said.

She added that the authorities are seeking to get her to agree to forego getting the apology, but she said she will not do that because of the importance of setting a precedent.

“That’s what I want. They need to know that starting today if something happens to women they can sue, they can raise their voices like I’m doing. It’s not easy, it’s revictimizing,” she said.

“But … thanks to this, if this doesn’t happen to a woman in this city, I’ll already consider myself well served,” she said.

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