Recently in my Sociology of Gender class we watched a documentary entitled “Babyland.” It was an ABC 20/20 documentary highlighting the problems of infant mortality here in the Mid-south, but more particularly how bad it is here in Memphis. In Shelby County, the mortality rate of infants is the same as in some third world countries, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Before I watched this video I thought I had a pretty good idea of how bad the situation was here in Memphis, but I was wrong. The amount of premature babies being born everyday is staggering, I think it said the number was around one every 45 minutes. If a baby is born premature it has a significantly less chance of survival than that of a baby carried to term. In the video it stated that the biggest problem is that the mothers are not taking the necessary steps to ensure their baby’s survival. A lot of this irresponsibility is of no fault of the mother’s though, I am sure if given the chance, and the means to do it, she would take care of herself while pregnant, but the fact is the majority of these mothers are impoverished living in the lower class parts of town. They are also black.

One of the people the video spotlighted was a young black girl. At the time the video was shot she was far along in her pregnancy but she recounted how uncertain she was in the beginning of the pregnancy. It took a more or less rich white woman to come in and “save” the teenage black girl because she did not know what she needed to do nor had access to the proper facilities on her own. The white woman had become like a mentor for this black girl and had made sure she received the proper care to ensure the survival of her baby. This situation is not the case the majority of the time. Many of the mothers do not have the financial means to pay for medical services and others still do not have the means to get themselves to a clinic even if they could afford the services. There are some even still whom do not fall under any of the above categories and can not get treatment because the clinics made available to them are closed, often after only being open for a short time during the day, due to lack of funding. How are we supposed to ask mothers to take the necessary precautions to be sure their babies survive if we as a city are not providing the services needed by these lower class mothers? The doctor from the clinic made a good point, she said that “nothing will change until the people in charge begin to acknowledge the problem and start funding places like this.” When asked by the reporter why they were not acknowledging how serious the problem was she said “Children don’t vote, babies can’t vote, poor people don’t vote.” This is true. Basically what she is saying is that we as a community are not recognizing this need and are not making this problem a priority. Like I said above, I did not know how bad it actually was until watching this video. People need to be educated on this so we can raise awareness, increase funding to these clinics, and ultimately bring an end to the infant mortality rate here in the Bluff City.

High Infant Mortality Program Babyland Tennessee

The above is a link to the 20/20 promo on YouTube. I was unble to find the entire video online.

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