Vicki, Jen and Jennifer at Women's Prison-Olongapo
A few days ago I went on an unusual home visit... to the provincial women's prison to provide prenatal care.
Society often forgets women in prison, even if she is pregnant, which here in the Philippines means she may not get any medical check-ups during pregnancy, and may be subject to disrespectful treatment during labor and birth from overworked and underpaid staff at an overcrowded government hospital.
Mercy In Action is changing that here in Olongapo by reaching out to the local women's prison to give free maternity care, including prenatal exams, pregnancy vitamins, pre-natal testing for HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B, and medical treatment as needed. After the birth we go back to the prison to follow up with postpartum check-ups.
And when the woman goes into labor? Mercy In Action opens our gates wide to receive the prison wagon that pulls up and brings out the laboring woman in chains. The midwives lovingly greet her and take her inside, where all chains and handcuffs are removed, and she is treated with respect and dignity for the duration of her stay. Our center is the only place where a woman has unrestricted access to her newborn after birth, especially important for a mother who knows in a few days she has to let go. The female guards who accompany the mother often express their praise for this haven of rest and kindness, a kind of bubble for the mother and baby before reality intrudes again all too soon...
...For that is sad part of this story. Babies are not allowed to remain with their mothers once they go back to prison three days after the birth. Here again, Mercy In Action steps up to help arrange for the transfer of the newborn into safe care either with family or in a local baby home. And of course we offer comfort to the mother, who is often grieving to lose her baby in this way. Recently a woman told us "Mercy helped me during my worst time, I will not forget you".
What do you think? How can we help these women even more? We appreciate suggestions, comments and prayers from our donors. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Without you we would not be able to conduct all the outreach we are currently involved in through our birth center. We love helping pregnant women in prison, and we hope you loved hearing about this compassionate outreach.
Midwife Jen gives so much love to all women!