White Nurse Accuses Black Pregnant Woman of Fraud in Horrifying Viral Video

Screenshot:  @auntkaren0/TikTok, auntkaren0/Facebook
Screenshot: @auntkaren0/TikTok, auntkaren0/Facebook

Last month, a pregnant Black woman named Jillian visited the Philly Pregnancy Center in Norristown, Pennsylvania, to pick up a doctor’s note that had already been approved for her. Jillian is the mother of a 3-year-old child and has scoliosis. Seven months into her current pregnancy, she was experiencing pain and other complications that made it difficult to continue working as a home health aide, and a doctor had approved a note for her to show her employer to begin her maternity leave.

But when Jillian arrived at the clinic, she was confronted by a white nurse practitioner, identified by Today as Theresa Smigo, who refused to give her the note and accused her of fraud. The interaction is captured in a now-viral TikTok video.

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“What were you thinking about when you got pregnant? That you were not going to work?” Smigo said to Jillian, in front of other patients in the waiting room—likely in violation of patient privacy policies. “Because I had three kids. I worked up until the second they were born.”

“I was thinking about having a kid,” Jillian replied. When Smigo accused her of fraud, Jillian responded, “It’s not fraud—if it was fraud, the doctor wouldn’t be getting me my note right now. How do you know how I feel? How do you know how my body feels inside?”

“Because I stuck my hand in there and checked your cervix,” Smigo replied.

“OK, you checked my cervix, but how do you know how my bones feel? But how do you know how my body feels? My legs? My back? How do you know how that feels? How you know how my nausea feels? How you know how my cramps feel?” Jillian responded.

As the confrontation went on, officers from the Norristown Police Department eventually arrived on the scene. On Tuesday, the police confirmed to Today that on Oct. 6, “an incident” occurred between a patient and Smigo in the waiting room, and a staff member at the clinic called as the incident “was escalating.” Police told Today they simply advised that Smigo and Jillian “avoid future contact.”

“I was devastated. I was really upset,” Jillian told the outlet about her interaction with the police, all while she was seven months pregnant and had simply come to pick up a note that had already been approved for her. “My heart was pounding, like, the baby’s kicking. I was so upset. And I just kept on asking them, ‘Why are you guys here? Why did you guys feel the need to come here?’ Because, like, you could look at me and see I’m not—I don’t want to hurt nobody.”

The Philly Pregnancy Center shared a statement with Today on Monday, clarifying that Smigo isn’t employed by the clinic but through “an independent per diem contractor.” The clinic confirmed that “the incident, [Smigo’s] response, and the entire matter is under investigation,” and apologized: “We are deeply sorry for the entire incident, and we will continue serving our patients as always with love and care.” As of Thursday, the clinic’s website shares a statement that reads: “We at the Philly Pregnancy Center (‘PPC’) have taken the recent uproar over the conduct of one of our contract nurse practitioners very seriously. … We have never encountered anything like this. So, we are starting a top to bottom analysis of how we work with our patients to make sure we interact with each person in a medically and socially appropriate manner.”

It’s not clear whether the clinic has taken any further steps to support Jillian, whether there have been updates in its investigation since Monday, or what the clinic’s policies are regarding calling the police on patients or discussing patients’ medical records in front of others. The Philly Pregnancy Center did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Jill deserves a public apology and so much more. The Philadelphia Pregnancy Center should be held accountable, but more importantly we as a society need to hold each other accountable,” Jillian’s lawyer, Briana Lynn Pearson, said in a statement to Today. “Every day in this country someone is discriminated against by a medical provider because of their immutable characteristics. Sometimes this discriminatory treatment is fatal.”

To be clear, by calling the police, someone at the clinic placed Jillian’s life—and her pregnancy—in danger that afternoon. Black pregnant people notably face the highest maternal mortality rates in the U.S. and are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, as a result of racialized barriers to health care and well-documented racism within the medical system. Black pregnant people are also more likely than white people to experience miscarriage and pregnancy loss. Smigo’s mistreatment of Jillian reflects a broader issue—a 2016 study found white healthcare workers and medical students were less likely to believe Black patients who said they were in pain. And as a Black pregnant woman, Jillian was only further endangered by police presence.

Jillian, who’s also Muslim, told Today she’d previously interacted with Smigo at the clinic and had felt mistreated by her before. “I felt like it was all racial because of my ethnic background and also maybe because of my religious background—all of it,” Jillian said. “I just felt like it was definitely discrimination.”

As of Thursday, Jillian’s TikTok has been viewed over 700,000 times on the platform and over 530,000 times on Twitter. Social media users have expressed outrage over how the clinic treated Jillian—and concern that the nurse represents endemic, often deadly anti-Black racism in the health system. “This is how Black women experience maternal mortality at such high rates,” one user wrote.

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