On April 1st, 2009, women and men gathered together at the Interchurch Center to share their experiences with the health care system in the country. The conference gave women a sense of unity in a surrounding where they could speak about the difficulties they’ve encountered.
One woman spoke on behalf of a 15-year old South African girl who was sexually assaulted. At the hospital, she was frightened, and didn’t understand what a rape kit was and had no one there to explain it to her. On top of that, when prescribed medication to prevent her from getting HIV, she was responsible for paying $2,000.00 for it. As an immigrant, neither she nor her parents had health insurance.
Another woman who came from an indigenous area talked about the difficulties of not speaking English when she first came to the United States and the hardships she encountered when visiting doctors without a translator. She also explained how others like her feared going to the doctor. For example, her cousin delayed getting prenatal care until her 3rd trimester for this reason. For the speaker, who became pregnant while in the U.S., she explained to the crowd how her doctor asked her, “Why didn’t you use protection?” It is situations like these that make it harder for immigrants to seek the care that they need because they are uncomfortable. No one deserves to be stereotyped when seeking health services.
During her speech she explained:
They [immigrants who don’t speak English] feel like they don’t have a voice.
Although no one should feel this way, this is the norm for many people with language barriers.
The speak out provided great insight as to how the health care system can fail women in this country. Panelists, including Susan Wood and Byllye Avery expressed the need for fairness and access to all women. Without it, women will continue to be at a disadvantage, putting their health in danger.
For information about the two day conference, click here.
-Angela Donadic, Policy and Advocacy Fellow