Hospital Visitation Rights

I was so touched to learn about President Obama’s memo regarding visitation rights in hospitals. This is so important for so many families and for so many reasons. Just the other evening, the story of the Langbehn-Pond family came up among a group of lesbians interested in starting families. As I understand it, one of the mothers in a same-sex family faced her final hours alone because a *$&%^* hospital wouldn’t let her children and partner in to be with her. Which is cruel.

And since this is a birth blog mostly, I can’t help but think about women who have been forced to be alone or with restricted visitors/family members/support in labor. It is just cruel to be left alone in these precious moments of life that you can never get back. I mean, it’s not just like someone at the hospital loses your chart while you’re getting your tonsils out and you have to deal with this annoyance during a stressful time or something. It’s BIRTH and DEATH, and those essential human things are never forgotten; they are never retrieved. We have the right to have support and comfort in these moments, and we have the right to decide where it comes from.

Ahem. I’ve gotten carried away. Back to the memo. There are two things that I think were so so right. First, IMHO many mainstream LGBT rights agendas favor gays who make a lot of money and who are white and/or gender conforming/cisgendered. By targeting hospitals that participate in Medicare or Medicaid (which is basically almost all of them, right?) this memo will benefit a wider spectrum of us, regardless of income or other otherwise margianalizing factors. Remarkable.

Second, It really kills me when folks regard LGBT protections and rights as special favors. Apart from being just plain de-humanizing and disrespectful, this attitude speaks to the idea that what happens to us does not happen to other families, which is often just not true. The whole idea that the only right way to be a family is a man+woman+1.5children+picket fence? It hurts a lot of families, not just queer ones. That idea keeps single folks from having their chosen family at their deathbed, keeps heterosexual widowers from peaceful endings, and even hurts some “members of religious orders,” according to the memo. Any move forward that recognizes how many reasons we have to be allies is extremely valuable for queer folks.

And again, since this is a birth blog after all, I wonder what this will mean for families (of all sorts of configurations!) during the birth process. For example, I know that second parent adoptions can’t happen until awhile after the birth of a child, so if a newborn and birth mother have medical complications (heaven forbid), will the second parent who will be adopting be able to make medical decisions for them? If there is an emergency situation during a birth, will chosen family members have more rights to be with the birth mother? That could mean a great deal to families in crisis. Are there other ways that this memo might affect birthing families?

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