Between 2016 and 2019, six women suffered obstetric violence at the Municipal Hospital of Morón. During those years there was a string of very serious cases like these, we managed to identify 11. The women began to meet through social networks, they went to the hospital to ask for explanations and they marched in silence.. The doctors filed a complaint for threats because the girls wrote their names on social networks, A case was opened against them and one of them was issued a perimeter measure.
In this context, they contacted us so that, as lawyers, we can intervene in the criminal case and give an institutional course to their complaints that were presented before the Municipality of Morón, the National Ombudsman, INADI, the National Commission Coordinator of Actions for the Preparation of Sanctions for Gender Violence (CONSAVIG), the Ministry of Health of the Province of Buenos Aires and the Ministry of Women, Gender Policies and Sexual Diversity PBA, with the idea that the article be applied 6 of Law 25929, which establishes that obstetric violence and the breach of the rights regulated by the Respectful Childbirth Law constitute a serious offense.
Taking only two laws (Law 26,485 for comprehensive protection of women and Law 25,929, known as the respected childbirth law) we can outline the regulation that our country has regarding gynecological-obstetric medical violence exercised at the time of delivery/birth:
1) It is a modality of gender violence, defined as: “that which health personnel exert on the body and reproductive processes of women, expressed in dehumanized treatment, an abuse of medicalization and pathologization of natural processes, of accordance with Law 25,929.”
2) Pregnant people and our children during pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum have the right to: be accompanied, receive information, be treated with respect, not be separated from our children, be treated as healthy people and respect for physiological times, among many others.
3) Failure to comply with these rights constitutes a serious offense for sanctioning purposes, without prejudice to the civil or criminal liability that may correspond.
The latter is key because what we are asking for and what is particular about the 11 cases in Morón is that in three of these babies died at the time of delivery and all the women received violence at the time of giving birth: abandonment, lack of attention and the complete discrediting of her words, both at the time of childbirth and even after the death of her children.
What we are saying is that in order to evict the head of service or impose some type of sanction, a criminal case is required, but the truth is that obstetric violence does not always constitute a crime and also, when it does constitute it, it is very difficult to prove because women enter the delivery room alone. The strength of this complaint, being collective, is that all these things that the women say, for example, “they took my cell phone, they didn’t let me come in with someone, they didn’t let me drink water, they told me to shut up while I was at work.” I give birth, they turned off the light”, these are not isolated cases because when six women tell the same thing, you begin to realize that it is an unwritten protocol.
In these cases, what is expected is an acknowledgment that obstetric violence was exercised, that what happened be clarified and that responsibilities and administrative sanctions be established. Those who denounced are young women who are in a vulnerable socioeconomic situation and it seems that nobody expects a woman with these characteristics to sustain a fight for six years, they expect them to give up.
In 2021, the girls presented all the documentation of what they experienced and also witnesses who were the doulas who at that time were volunteers in the hospital and described many practices that constituted obstetric violence. Other women who had gone through similar situations also came forward as witnesses, they are witnesses that this is a systematic practice and was not an isolated case or an error.
More than three years have passed and what the women are asking for now is that the cases be closed. Not with a view to there being a punishment, but rather that there be no impunity, that there be some kind of sanction and based on that sanction or recognition of the responsibility of the State to implement public policies to eliminate obstetric violence, that it also generates some type of restorative justice measure.
The girls are promptly asking for the summary to be resolved, for there to be a hearing with the community and for the hospital and municipal authorities to tell them how maternity has improved during all these years since they made the complaints. They also want to tell those responsible what it meant to them and contribute their experience as users. All of that can only be done after there is closure, final resolution, and accountability.
Another thing they ask is that a plaque be placed as a mark of memory of the institutional and gender violence that implies the obstetric violence they received and for which, in addition, three of their children died. Within this framework, a request to support the complaints of the girls, promoted by organizations that accompany us.
What happened in Morón is not exceptional, they are systematic practices that occur throughout the health system and that will have particular characteristics in the private sector and others in the public sector. What is requested is that the case of Morón be taken as an example and that the channels be enabled from the Province and Nation so that women can effectively make complaints but not from a punitive perspective. The complaints and the voices of women will allow us to have serious statistics and make an evaluation of the performance of hospitals and professionals.
We have to find a way for women and pregnant people who use health services to participate in the implementation of public policies to eradicate obstetric violence and also, in general, because it is not something that occurs only in childbirth, They violate you if you abort, if you lose a desired feat, if you are going to give birth, obstetric events are criminalized and the violence always comes from the same obstetric ward.
On Sunday the 21st at noon the girls are going to paint a mural in the Plazoleta Presidente Perón de Morón, as a community artistic event together with a group of artist doulas called guardians we will flower. The idea is to review all these years of struggle and open a space for dialogue with the community and with all the people, organizations and professionals who have accompanied them throughout all these years.
*Member of Manage Justice. Give birth Rights: Self-managed interdisciplinary team that accompanies and legally advises women who suffered obstetric violence.