A movement created and supported by Costa Rican mothers saying “no” to the mistreatment of women who are giving birth turned a major corner with the approval this week of a bill to penalize obstetric violence.
I first heard the term “obstetric violence” a few years ago and thought, what? Is that a thing? Um, yes. A huge thing. A shocking thing. A 2019 survey in Costa Rica reported by La Nación showed that 35 of 100 women aged 15 to 49 weren’t consulted before medicine was administered to them or a procedure was performed; 12 percent were yelled at or scolded; 5 percent were made to push when it wasn’t called for and 2 percent suffered physical aggression. (Physical aggression. From their caregivers. During childbirth.)
The new law will sanction medical personnel who do any of these things, who perform an unnecessary caesarean or who prevent a woman from having someone accompany her during labor and delivery. Of course, this won’t really be put into place until the Health Ministry creates the regulations to accompany the law, and we all know that isn’t necessarily a speedy process – but progress is progress is progress.
This is amazing. What’s even more inspiring is that women who had suffered and even lost their babies took all that trauma and pain and transformed it into a powerful force for change. Taking a dive into the Alto a la Violencia Obstétrica en Costa Rica Facebook page is a sobering, informative and deeply inspiring experience. It would have been completely understandable for these women not to want to relive their experiences again and again, not to move even further down this rabbit hole by learning more about the atrocities sometimes perpetrated in hospitals. Instead, they powered through. They showed what they are made of. They exemplified the greatest qualities of motherhood.
Some of them are not even called mothers by society. Some of them say “No” when they are asked if they have children, and yet they are the finest mothers of all of us. They are mothers so big-hearted and generous that they have made a difference for hundreds of thousands of babies yet unborn, and women yet to walk through hospital doors.
With a lump in my throat and the deepest admiration, I want to say to these women I have never met: thank you, for all of our kids, and for all of their moms.
I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook! You can also find me churning out small, square poems on any topic under the sun (here on the site, on Instagram or Twitter).