Reframing Motherhood in the Context of Equality: The right to health

MOTHER’S RIGHTS, segment 2 of 5 (see previous post)


The Right to Health

The low priority afforded worldwide to the health of mothers is a fact wholly incongruous with their inestimable value. The loss of a mother is an ordeal more devastating to a family than any other. Yet women undergo pregnancy in many cases without adequate prenatal care or skilled birth attendants.5 Widespread mother malnutrition and the high incidence of childbirth mortality in many regions of the world reflect the low priority given to mother’s health by agencies allocating resources.

Even beyond pregnancy, safeguarding the health of a mother would directly affect the survival of children. It is clear that what is good for mothers is good for families. Therefore, in allocating resources to the health of mothers, governments are ensuring the highest benefits to the largest number of its citizens.

5 Remarks by Dr. Fatala, on the World Bank sponsored Forum on the Protection of Motherhood, featured on C-Span Radio, April 7, 1998.

That was all I wrote back then in that article about the right to health. Boy, was I naive! It amazes me that I left out the whole subject of mental health for mothers. How would a mother with chronic depression, bipolar disorder or PTSD due to various forms of abuse for example, be an effective parent without access to adequate mental health support?

When fathers suffer from various mental health problems they often just take off. Mothers who suffer from mental health issues are often trying to cope with their untreated condition while childrearing. They may even feel threatened with child removal by child welfare agencies. Where is the advocacy for mothers? Do mothers have a right to mental healthcare so that they can be effective mothers? What is the cost to society of ineffective mothers?

Hard to calculate, you say. No. I would say it is incalculable.

I have a friend who is poor, severely depressed and trying to raise her daughters without child support. She told me the most egregious pain of motherhood is witnessing her children’s privation. It is debilitating.


About rheaharmsen

Rhea Harmsen is a scientist, novelist and author of Language of the Spirit, a volume of selected poems. She has also released three novels, The Harvest of Reason, Intermarry, and God Created Women. Harmsen was born in a family with a black father and a white mother at a time when interracial marriage was still illegal in some states. Her parents gave her a vision of world citizenship that informs her writing and her lifestyle and has caused her to reject traditional views of race and gender. Harmsen's article "Science in the Hands of Women: Present Barriers, Future Promise" appeared in World Order in 1998 and provides the foundation for the story line for her novel The Harvest of Reason. She co-published the Monroeville Race Unity Forum Bulletin and authored many poems on racial topics, crystallizing the "conversation on race" in the novel Intermarry. Her work with domestic violence survivors in Puerto Rico inspired the novel God Created Women. Harmsen holds a doctorate in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She currently resides in Puerto Rico. Upcomming projects are described in her web page at
This entry was posted in educators, equality, feminism, global discussion, mother's day, mother's rights, mothers, national discussion, rights of women, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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