One day after Mother’s Day, as I walked past the stretch of Vermont just across from Los Angeles City College, I saw a curious set of signs posted at the local Wesley Health Center clinic. The signs informed visitors that no testing for COVID-19 was available, as well as that there would be no night hours for the clinic until further notice. One sign also asked visitors to try to form a line while others were being pre-screened, but said nothing of the six feet recommended within proximity of strangers.
I mused then about the children just arriving or set to arrive to Los Angeles from their mother’s wombs during this time. It’s an extraordinary historical moment to be born in, and in particular I wonder how so many madres solteras in the community are taking care of their needs given the closure and reduced hours of so many local clinics.
The Wesley Health Center, for one, is a clinic that is already difficult enough to get service at even excluding the crisis. While the clinic’s website states that “We accept most health coverage including Medi-Cal, MediCare, and Covered CA…,” as well as that “No one is turned away for lack of ability to pay,” the fact is that another sign posted on the clinic’s screen specifies that it serves “L.A. CARE MEMBERS.“
I know from experience that this means not just anyone under any type of the public coverage listed on the clinic’s site is able to receive care at the actual location on Vermont avenue. I remember walking into the location not too long ago, and being asked to provide my ID. After looking up my information, the staff told me that I’d have to visit the Department of Social Services office in MacArthur Park to figure out where I could be screened, despite my local residence in the area.
It was a significant but ultimately minor inconvenience for me. But I can only imagine how challenging the run-around process with public assistance and more can be for madres solteras just recently arrived to the country, if not for pregnant teenage women in Los Angeles, of which there are more than we can count.
There are likely also more mothers like them on the way. As one writer noted about policies shutting down school and economic activity during the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, “school closures are costly and have economic and social impacts that affect women disproportionately and hurt the poorest families the most…During the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, for example, cases of teenage pregnancy more than doubled to 14,000.”
Los Angeles may not be a Sierra Leone, but some twenty years from now, when today’s newborns come of age, I hope that on the matter of access to healthcare for vulnerable communities everywhere, we need to make only less distinctions. They all deserve our humanity.
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