Short and sweet today. As I’ve written about previously, my partner has been pushing for the creation of alternative birthing sites in NYC during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read her excellent, short Medium pieces, Birth Centers NOW – on the urgent need, during the pandemic, to convert “a handful of spaces much smaller than the Javits Center into safe alternative birthing sites so we can get through this crisis without causing unnecessary trauma and harm to birthing people and their babies” – and The Problem in New York, which can be summed up by her statement: “In Downtown NYC alone, the loss of midwifery and birth services [in recent decades] has been staggering.”
Now, as I wrote to friends this morning:
Tl;dr: Keep Pregnant People Safe During COVID-19 in New York petition is live. Please sign it and share it widely. Thank you!!!
I’m sending this to a number of you who expressed interest in supporting the push to create Alternative Birthing Sites in NYC (now being called “Auxiliary Maternity Units” owing to choices made by some national bodies in the birth world) and some of you who haven’t, but who, I hope, may be interested in supporting the effort.
Neelu has worked steadily in recent weeks, and although she’s succeeded in making the case to staffers at the City Council, Mayoral, State Senate, and US House levels – and in contributing to the national conversation that has been rapidly evolving on this subject – as yet, we’ve seen no meaningful action in NYC.
Sadly, at the State and City levels, we now have reliable information that neither the Governor, nor the Mayor sees this issue as a priority. It’s unfortunate that elected executives are not prioritizing the needs of pregnant New Yorkers at this critical juncture, and their inaction is certainly exacerbating our existing birth apartheid: People who can afford to have largely shifted to last-minute home births, left the City to give birth elsewhere, or, at very least, are relying on private care providers they trust will insulate them from the crisis in our hospitals. Everyone else faces an increasingly desperate circumstance as our hospitals are overwhelmed with very sick people and yet pregnant people are still expected to go into these same hospitals to give birth.
Given the political dead-end we seem to have reached, Neelu has reluctantly decided to launch a petition – Keep Pregnant People Safe During COVID-19 in New York – which is live now, and with which we’d love your support. Please share it as widely as you see fit.
As always, we’d welcome your feedback or advice on this effort, and would be happy to formally list you as a supporter on the petition if you’d like.
Since its launch yesterday evening (that is, on April 9th), the petition – which, again, I encourage you to sign, share and support! – has already garnered nearly 1,000 signatures. We’re hoping to hit 10,000 by the end of the weekend with your help.
From the petition, you’ll also find links to a number of helpful resources. Neither of us loves this strategy, but our hope is that, if it petition garners enough public support, perhaps it will succeed in putting this issue on the political agenda where other efforts have thus far failed. Obviously, the creation of such sites should have happened weeks/a month ago, and the hour is rather late here in the City, but it should not be forgotten that traumas to birthing people and their babies alike were (and, in many instances, still are) avoidable – just like this entire crisis was – and by demanding that our elected officials acknowledge this issue, we help to lay the groundwork for birth justice today and in our future post-pandemic world.
As my partner has been urging for weeks: “We need alternative birthing sites NOW.”
I hope you’ll join the movement to make them a reality.