A disturbing photograph of an indigenous woman from Mexico delivering a baby on a patch of grass outside a medical center has set off a firestorm online and sparked a national debate that led to the head of the clinic that turned the mother away being suspended.
The shocking image, taken by a passerby, shows 29-year-old Irma Lopez , who is of Mazatec ethnicity, squatting after giving birth, her face contorted in pain and her tiny newborn son still bound by the umbilical cord and lying on the ground.
The government of the southern state of Oaxaca announced Wednesday that it has suspended the health center's director, Dr. Adrian Cruz, while officials conduct state and federal investigations into the October 2 incident.
Mrs Lopez, a married mother of three, said that she and her husband were turned away from the Rural Health Center of the village of San Felipe Jalapa de Diaz by a nurse who said she was only eight months pregnant and ‘still not ready’ to deliver, even though the woman was reportedly fully dilated.
The couple, who are Mazatecs and do not speak Spanish, could not understand much of what the nurse was telling them beyond the word ‘no,’ so they went outside.
Addressing the controversy later, the nurses blamed the incident on the language barrier and claimed that they did not have enough staff on hand to treat the woman due to a partial work stoppage.
An hour and a half later, at 7.30am, the woman’s water broke. Knowing that the time has come, Lopez kneeled on the grass outside the clinic and started pushing while grabbing the wall of a house.
‘I didn't want to deliver like this. It was so ugly and with so much pain,’ she said, adding she was alone for the birth because her husband was trying to persuade the nurse to call for help.
Eloy Pacheco Lopez, who was among a number of people drawn to the site by the mother’s screams, took the photo and gave it to a news reporter. It ran in several national newspapers, including the full front page of the tabloid La Razon de Mexico, and was widely circulated on the Internet.