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WATCH: Save the Chicago Maternity Center (November-1972)

(Editors Note: WATCH- Women Act To Control Healthcare, was organized by members of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. WATCH led a campaign to try to save the Chicago Maternity Center which offered safe home birth services to Chicago's impoverished west side. The Center eventually was forced to close despite public protest. Below is the text of an organizing leaflet put out by WATCH.)

We, the Women of W.A.T.C.H. (Women Act To Control Healthcare) want you and your community group to join with us in our struggle to continue the services of the Chicago Maternity Center and to influence the building of Northwestern University ’s Women’s Hospital.

The Chicago Maternity Center is the only clinic in Chicago that sponsors home delivery. In addition, it provides complete pre- and post natal services and is the only agency providing 24-hour emergency services for the delivery of babies. Unlike other medical institutions, the center serves all people of the city according to an ability to pay.

Some years ago, Northwestern University agreed to provide back-up medical services and staff to the Maternity Center; the Maternity Center, itself, is financially supported by private donations recruited by a voluntary Board of Directors. Northwestern’s staff support included a full-time resident and 4th year medical students. Northwestern has reduced this staff support in recent years and this June the full-time resident was withdrawn. This left the center as the entire responsibility of medical director, Dr. Beatrice Tucker. Twenty-four hour emergency call is an inhuman burden which no single doctor should bear, let alone Dr. Tucker who now is in her 70's. She has devoted the last 40 years of her life to the Maternity Center, but feels that she must resign as full-time medical director, January 1, 1973.

At the same time, Northwestern has announced the construction of a new Women’s Hospital and Maternity Center adjacent to Wesley and Passavant Memorial Hospitals. Construction began this year and it is scheduled to be completed by 1974. The Board of the current West Side Maternity Center has been incorporated in the Board of the Women’s Hospital. HOWEVER, the fate of a similar program on an ability to pay basis, the fate of a home delivery service and the extent of Northwestern’s commitment to build community services are all in question at this time. While publicity for the new hospital insists that the Women’s Hospital will not phase out the Maternity Center, but will continue home delivery and expand community services, Northwestern’s actions toward the Chicago Maternity Center suggest otherwise. No public commitment has been made to finding a new director effective, January 1, 1973.

A hospital on the Gold Coast hardly serves the same neighborhood served by the Chicago Maternity Center at Maxwell and Newberry. 30% of the Center’s cases are emergencies—women who have not seen a doctor before delivery for any care or who have just delivered unattended by medical personnel.

WATCH is a women’s group of healthcare workers and consumers who are interested in community based services —financially and geographically accessible to women and their families. Northwestern University is a powerful and large institution; its policy will affect and control the quality and nature of women’s health care for a large portion of city women. Therefore WATCH is concerned. We find the only presently existing network of maternal infant and child care services in the city, run by the Board of Health, to be spotty, few and not comprehensive in serving many of our communities. Therefore we must demand of both the public and the private sectors responsible and adequate health care for our communities.

We see our concerns and the constituencies of our respective organizations to be the same. Only by gathering together to fight around these demands in a coalition (specific demands enclosed) can we begin to deal with the actions of institutions as Northwestern University in constructive and meaningful ways. We are announcing a meeting to discuss our demands, to organize a group of people who will reflect the large constituency of women who need quality, community ob/gyn services. We need a group of people who are willing to approach Northwestern on this issue.

Please come:

2:00 p.m.
608 South Ashland
Chicago, Illinois

We have also requested a meeting between WATCH and the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Chicago Maternity Center at their offices, 211 East Chicago Avenue

Tuesday, December 12th at 12 NOON.

We are hoping for a large turnout of patients and supporters to impress upon them the seriousness of our concerns.

In addition, please do any of the following with this insure attendance of people:

1) we are enclosing some leaflets to post around neighborhoods or your organization.

2) start several chain calls, if you can, informing your membership of our activity and the necessity of coming out to our meetings in full support.

3) call Laura Newman if you are having a organizational meeting or community meeting which we can attend to better explain our concerns.

4) at least, have a representative of your group attend our meeting on the 10th of December.

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