August 8, 2012
The 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the privacy of its citizens and states that the government cannot interfere in their personal affairs. Someone forgot to tell the Delhi Charter School in Delhi, Louisiana who required students to take a pregnancy test if it is rumored that they’re pregnant. If the students refuse to take the test, they are essentially kicked out of school. If the pregnancy test is positive, they are forced to leave and become home-schooled.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Louisiana State Board of Education had to intervene. According to the ACLU, the school’s policy violates federal law, specifically Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 that states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
According to Wikipedia, New Delhi is a town of approximately 3,000 people where the average yearly income is $25,000 for men and $12,000 for women. Those statistics are glaring. Clearly both girls and boys desperately need an education if they are going to change their destiny. It would be interesting to know whether the fathers of the alleged pregnant girls at the charter school are forced to leave as well. Is sex education is part of the educational curriculum? Do they have or offer family planning services? Do they realize that forcing someone to take a pregnancy test is a violation of their privacy according to HIPAA rules?
Fortunately, the Louisiana Department of Education and the ACLU put a stop to the school’s unlawful practice. A society that does not respect its women does not respect its future. The school officials at the Delhi Charter School should hang their heads in shame.
March 12, 2012
Imagine that you are 15 years old, summoned to your school gymnasium, made to stand in the middle of an assembly while school officials announce to 400 of your classmates and teachers that you are pregnant. Until that point, no one knew that you were pregnant except your sister. Then imagine that you’re forced to leave school because you’re deemed a “bad example” for your fellow classmates. This is allegedly what happened to Shantelle Hicks of Gallup, New Mexico.
According to Hicks, right after the announcement was made; boys began to kick the back of her chair and called her “Mama Bear” while other students demanded to feel her abdomen. She felt publically humiliated and bullied. Enter the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Hicks filed a civil lawsuit against her school seeking punitive damages. The ACLU states that Hick’s suspension from school was unconstitutional. Two weeks prior to the announcement, Hicks’ mother informed the school that she was pregnant. The school officials asked her to leave Wingate Elementary School that is under the administration of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The school, that has grades 1 through 8, felt that she was “a bad example for other girls.” Hicks’ mother contacted the ACLU and they informed the school that it was illegal to deny a student access to education for being pregnant. When she returned 4 days, they made that very public announcement that Hicks believes was intended to force her to leave but she refused.
Teen pregnancy is nothing new and neither is public humiliation. We know that 39 out of 1,000 women in the U.S. are pregnant between ages 15 to 19 and approximately 409,000 babies were born to teen moms. But does this give the Bureau of Indian Affairs the right to treat Hicks like a character out of the infamous novel, The Scarlet Letter? Where is the objectivity?
Hicks gave birth on February 7th and will return to school of March 19th. She plans to graduate from school and pursue a degree in nursing or criminology.
Do you think public humiliation will reduce pregnancy? Let me know what you think.
August 22, 2011
Charinez Jefferson’s infant son was born the day before my birthday but it was also the day that she died. The doctors kept her on life support while they frantically tried to deliver and save her baby, a scenario I know quite well.
Jefferson was gunned down on a Southside Chicago street at the tender age of 17 while walking to the store with friends. She allegedly stopped to speak to a guy that she knew and someone drove up and began shooting a gun. She didn’t know the gunman and reportedly begged him to spare her life as he fired several shots that ultimately pierced her head and body. It’s not clear why she was shot but quite often it never is.
On a hot summer day many years ago in New York City, a pregnant woman living in a housing project was shot by a bullet that pierced her kitchen window as she was cooking a pot of collard greens. Her husband, who was watching TV in the next room thought the loud bang that he heard was a fire cracker and quickly got up to check on his wife. He discovered her lying on the kitchen floor with a spoon clenched in her hand. I was a junior resident on call when the EMS rushed into the Emergency Room announcing that they had a pregnant woman with a gunshot wound who was barely alive. A stampede of running feet quickly converted the largest examination room into a make-shift operating room. There was simply no time to transport her up to the labor and delivery suite. She was dying and if we didn’t move quickly the baby would die too. Her vocal cords kept closing in spasms as the anesthesiologist attempted to place a breathing tube down her windpipe (aka trachea). The “code” team was doing CPR on her chest and my chief resident and our OB team were frantically attempting to deliver the baby by performing the fastest c. section on earth while the pediatricians were standing by holding a blanket. In the end we lost the mother, just like the doctors in Chicago lost Charinez Jefferson but saved her baby as they did in Chicago. Our patient’s baby remained in the hospital for almost 2 months before it was discharged home.
So far, Jefferson’s son appears to be stable but he will eventually be discharged home to his grandmother who has advanced breast cancer that has spread to her bones. Her pregnant daughter took an evening walk and never returns home. Sometimes life just doesn’t make any sense.
May 25, 2011
Less than three miles from the community of my youth, a maintenance worker from the Walt Whitman Projects in Brooklyn, New York heard the sound of a baby crying from a trash compactor and ultimately saved its life. When I was growing up, the trash compactor was referred to as the Incinerator Room because trash thrown down the chute would eventually be burned. Thank God those days are over because Laquasia Wright’s newborn would have died in a blazing inferno.
Neighbors said 18 year old Wright had recently looked worried, as if she bore the weight of the world on her shoulders. A relative described her as looking “lost.” Because she was “heavy-set” as described by neighbors, she was able to conceal her pregnancy until the time of her baby’s birth. They also described her as being sweet. Unfortunately this sweet, heavy-set 18 year old woman who lived with her family in the Whitman Houses is now charged with murder. Every obstetrician, physician, midwife and nurse who doesn’t discuss the state law called the Abandoned Infant Protection Act shares the blame.
As healthcare providers we have failed miserably to inform patients that they can leave a newborn in a hospital, police precinct, firehouse or other safe locations for up to thirty days without fear of penalty or prosecution. As long as the baby has not been harmed, this can be done anonymously. Clearly, this issue needs to be addressed by the American College of Obstetrician-Gynecologists but securing a place on a committee that should address these issues is synonymous with seeking congressional office.
Sure, it would be easy to point fingers at Wright with condemnation but there’s a bigger issue. Information regarding the Abandoned Infant Protection Act should be discussed in high schools, middle schools, plastered on the walls of every public ladies room and discussed from the pulpit. Radio stations and MTV should be sponsoring public service announcements to address this issue. Are there any celebrities in the house? Where are the ACOG leaders? The Office of Women’s Health? How long are we going to have read about babies being dumped in trash cans?
Wright’s baby lived because it landed on a large pile of trash. The next baby might not be so lucky.
May 4, 2011
Gaby Rodriquez will have her fifteen minutes of fame in the national media because she faked a pregnancy for 6 ½ months as a “social experiment” in her Yakima Valley high school. Only her high school principal, her mother and 20-year old boyfriend were aware that Rodriguez was not pregnant, her teachers, high school peers and even her best friend were all fooled. Rodriguez staged this charade because she wanted to make a point: “You have to take control of your life and not live your life in the shadows of stereotypes and rumors.” I’m sorry but I’m still confused. Was there a hypothesis? Did she want to know how people would treat her if she became pregnant? Was she acting out a fantasy? Is this why prime time television and media outlets from the east and west coast, as well as Canada and the BBC in London have all pursued Rodriguez with baited breath? There’s even talk about a movie and hiring an entertainment attorney.
Rodriguez lives in a town of approximately 9,000 people where 33% of the population lives below the poverty level and the median income is $26,950. Her high school is 85 percent Hispanic. These are the demographics of a community who is not surrounded by power and luxury. The irony is that the media now wants to speak to Rodriguez because she wasn’t pregnant. She didn’t perpetuate a stereotype and successfully pulled off a hoax. But is that a reason to gain notoriety? The U.S. has the highest rate of teen pregnancy of all developed countries. About 82 percent of pregnant teens are unmarried and 74-95 percent of their pregnancies are unintended. Only 33 percent of pregnant teens will graduate from high school. They are also at risk for several pregnancy complications including an increased risk of pre-eclampsia, Down syndrome, poor weight gain, premature labor and low birth weight babies. These are the facts that should be discussed in the media but I will not hold my proverbial breath and wait.
My media coaches so aptly advised me that the media’s job is to entertain and if you receive some noteworthy information in the process, consider yourself lucky. I hope the media also noted the fact that Rodriguez was taking an advanced placement course in biology. This young lady is obviously intelligent.
Wearing a prosthetic pregnant belly is now an entree to prime time television. Let’s hope it doesn’t become a trend.
February 7, 2011
In less than six months after writing Seven Reasons Why Pregnancy Becomes a Deadly Affair , the public outrage is faint and inaudible regarding domestic violence committed against pregnant women. The subject therefore has to be revisited again.
On a college campus, less than 90 minutes away from my home, a 17 year old woman was kicked and punched in her abdomen for no apparent reason other than she carried life within her womb. The alleged father of her baby, Devin Nickels, a college student at Florida State University was apparently not happy about his new prospective role. He purportedly contacted a high school buddy, Andres Luis Marrero, who now attended the University of Tampa and asked him to beat his girlfriend until she had a miscarriage for $200.00. Marrero, instead, offered to assault the girl for free.
According to the University of Tampa’s newspaper, The Minaret, Nickels drove his girlfriend to a secluded wooded area near an apartment complex and Marrero allegedly assaulted her despite her pleas that she was pregnant. The woman was treated at a local hospital and her pregnancy was still viable. Hours later, Marrero allegedly wrote about the attack on his Facebook® wall describing it as “fun”. He was subsequently arrested for armed kidnapping and aggravated assault on a pregnant woman. His father made a statement that his son was an “outstanding kid all his life” and he had no idea “where this was coming from.”Nickels was also arrested on the FSU campus.
Unfortunately these travesties continued. A Comcast.com online newsletter reported the story of a 17- year- old Ypsilanti high school that allegedly stabbed a classmate 12 times in the back of the head, with whom he had sex because she told him she “might be pregnant.” She ultimately had surgery that resulted in an intensive care unit admission. The classmate lived because she “played dead.”
A few facts are in order for those misguided individuals who look at violence as a means of ending a pregnancy. According to a medical study, violence does not influence pregnancy loss. A 45 year old pregnant woman has an 80% chance of having a miscarriage. A 17 year old girl, despite being kicked in the stomach does not. One of the consequences of having sex is procreation. According to CDC, 49 % of all pregnancies in this country are unplanned. Teens need to be aware of the awkward fact that if they have sex, there is a near 50% chance that they will become pregnant and if their partner is not happy, they are at a greater risk of experiencing domestic violence even to the point of death.
Violence against pregnant women is becoming unparalleled in its viciousness. How many dead bodies will it take before we start doing something about it?
October 6, 2010
Those of us from the Boomer Generation can recall the days of “shotgun” marriages and “Home for Unwed Girls” when a teen became pregnant. In some cultures, pregnant teens were sent “Down South” to live with an extended relative until after the baby was born and then reintegrated back into their community. For unmarried college girls, an unexpected pregnancy usually meant “life-interrupted” and dreams eternally deferred. Thank goodness those days are over.
While researching information for my previous blog regarding murdered pregnant women, (7 Reasons Why Pregnancy Becomes a Deadly Affair) there was one recurring theme: the men were not ready to become fathers and felt that their lives were “ruined.” If only they had a little more faith.
Wright State in Dayton, Ohio has developed a unique Women’s Center and Child Development Center that helps its pregnant students and expectant fathers. They offer pregnancy tests and assistance in referrals to prenatal clinics and hospitals in the community. It also serves as a resource center for pregnant students and those who already have children. The proposed services in the future include information regarding financial aid, scholarships, housing, childcare, academic advice, family-friendly activities and breastfeeding stations on campus. The school also plans to offer three scholarships for students with dependent children which is admirable. The intent of the program is to encourage pregnant students to complete their higher education as opposed to dropping out which was the only option for many pregnant college students until the recent past.
Last month, the federal government awarded 20 states a cumulative grant of $27 million to assist pregnant teens and young parents. The Pregnancy Assistance Fund, as it is known, was designated to help pregnant women, teen parents finish high school, get childcare, healthcare and housing. The funds may also be used to prevent violence against pregnant women and mothers. Pregnant teen students and student mothers should inquire as to whether these grants are offered in their states. Pregnancy does not necessarily mean life interrupted. The child within your womb could turn out to be your greatest blessing.
Do you know how to anticipate and manage the unexpected events that could occur during your pregnancy? You will if you purchase The Smart Mother’s Guide to a Better Pregnancy available on Amazon.com or wherever books are sold.
October 19, 2009
During a routine prenatal visit, I noticed a nineteen year old pregnant mom had lost weight which is unusual in the second trimester. When I asked why, she lowered her head, said that she had paid a traffic ticket and hadn’t been eating well because there wasn’t much food in her freezer. She presently lived with her brother and sister and I’m not certain what happened to her parents. She was on a fixed income, receiving a monthly disability benefit and the traffic ticket affected her budget for the next two months.
I inquired whether she had visited any food pantries or applied for food stamps. Yes, she had applied the previous week and was waiting to receive a response. I offered to write a letter to expedite the process but knew I had to make a deeper decision. Do I passively listen to her complaint or become a pro-active physician?
I reflected on the fragility of my own life at age 19 and my difficult navigation into adulthood. I glanced at her pregnant belly and told her that before her exam was over, she’d have some money for food. My medical assistant of thirteen years rolled her eyes, sucked her teeth and muttered a sigh of frustration in Spanish. “You know she’s playing you,” she mumbled underneath her breath. “You’ve got a kind heart Dr. Galloway but you’re too nice. Let her go to a pantry. Somebody will help her.”
I’m a native New Yorker so I know the drill quite well. Yes, there are people who mistake kindness for weakness. And yes, there are patients who tell lies. However, I couldn’t ignore the patient’s weight loss or her unborn baby who needed nutrition, so I bought her a $30.00 gift card from the local supermarket.
Was it a scam? Who knows for sure? All I know is that the true gift is what comes from our heart.
*A Day in the Life© is a copyright series written to illustrate the challenging cases of pregnancy and the importance of receiving quality care. No part of this blog may be copied or reproduced without the express permission of the author, Linda Burke-Galloway, M.D.