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MCN White Paper: Pregnant Asylum Seekers Struggle to Access Prenatal Care

Today, Migrant Clinicians Network released a new white paper, “Failures of US Health Care System for Pregnant Asylum Seekers.” This nine-page report outlines how pregnant asylum seekers who have been released into the US to await their asylum hearing face extreme obstacles to secure prenatal care, despite their legal presence within the country.

Without prenatal care, infants will not have the benefit of early screening and treatment for potentially life-threatening diseases and screening for congenital abnormalities, while in utero. Additionally, pregnancies without prenatal care may result in excess utilization of emergency services which produces unforeseen strain on the health care system.

The report summarizes the condition of pregnant asylum seekers upon arrival to the US-Mexico border and initial processing by the US Customs and Border Protection, before discussing the limited care available to them at immigration shelters to which they are released, and the few and limited support systems that they can access once they leave the shelters. Knowledge of prenatal care needs, cost, lack of insurance, transportation, refusal by health centers, and fear are delineated as key barriers for pregnant asylum seekers from accessing the care they need during their pregnancy.

“We know the risks to the person and the costs to the system of an unattended birth. Both can be addressed by implementation of a funding mechanism that makes prenatal and delivery care possible,” explained Deliana Garcia, Chief Programs Officer of Emerging and International Projects for Migrant Clinicians Network. “The inclusion of prenatal care for asylum seekers into the minimal health care package provided for refugees could ameliorate this challenge.”

To illustrate the barriers to care, the report features a case study of a pregnant asylum seeker from Haiti who is enrolled in Health Network, Migrant Clinicians Network’s virtual case management program. Even with a dedicated case manager, the asylum seeker struggles to obtain basic prenatal care.

Read the entire white paper:
Failures of US Health Care System for Pregnant Asylum Seekers