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Archive for the ‘Abortion’ Category

Activists across the country are making sure that their voices, and their stories, are being heard. We refuse to stay silent. Jocelyn Munguia is a poderosa serving her community. Her dedication, strength, and courage to overcome life’s obstacles has made her the activist of the month. Read her story here:

I used to wonder why someone didn’t do something about it, and then I thought to myself: I am someone.

I endured a harrowing journey when I moved from Mexico City to the U.S. at the age of 11. Life stayed tough even after my family settled in Chicago’s western suburbs. I felt like an outsider in middle school, a minority for one. Gradually, though, I became more comfortable, and by the time I entered Fenton High School in Bensenville I felt as though I belonged. However, I was involved in an abusive relationship.

With no family support I had an abortion at 16. Then, when I reached my senior year, all at once, the limits of being undocumented in the U.S. became clear and I became even more depressed. I’m aware that I am not only looked down on for being young, but also for being an undocumented Latina; there are so many intersections, one doesn’t wake up one day and decide which one to be.
I participated in the first Coming Out of the Shadows in downtown Chicago last year and have felt empowered ever since. I know that no matter what I do or where I go, I will keep being poderosa.

Jocelyn Comes Out as Undocumented

Jocelyn Comes Out as Undocumented

I’m a co-founder of the Latin@ Youth Action League (L@YAL), a grassroots community organization in DuPage County. Our work focuses primarily on issues the Latino community faces in the suburbs of DuPage County. Much of our recent work has focused on undocumented youth and immigration as a whole. We have held rallies, workshops, and provided access to resources to many youth in the area.

After learning about the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) I also successfully organized a couple of Cafecitos in collaboration with HABLAMOS, a Latina organization in Elmhurst College. A couple of months ago I had the privilege of traveling to Washington with NLIRH, meet and advocate alongside incredible women for reproductive healthcare and healthcare for immigrant families. I also decided to organize an event around Latina reproductive health issues at College of DuPage. When I was younger I also experienced molestation and assault, and know many that have, which is why creating spaces for women to talk about serious topics in a safe and comfortable way is extremely necessary.

Jocelyn held a cafecito on campus

Jocelyn held a cafecito on campus

We, Undocumented Illinois, a collective of undocumented led organizations around the state, recently did a couple of actions focusing on stopping deportations. The actions consisted on trying to stop a bus and blocking the street outside of Broadway Detention Center and blocking traffic on Michigan Avenue in front of the Hilton Hotel asking president Obama to stop all deportations. We know that raids are still happening and families are being torn apart every day.

I know I will continue to push and strive for something better not only for myself or my family, but for many who are also directly affected.

Jocelyn at the Coming Out of the Shadows 2013 event

Jocelyn at the Coming Out of the Shadows 2013 event

Jocelyn being arrested

Jocelyn being arrested

Jocelyn is July's poderosa profile

Jocelyn is July’s poderosa profile

Jocelyn and Reyna chanting at the Coming Out of the Shadows rally in 2013

Jocelyn and Reyna from Undocumented IL chanting at the Coming Out of the Shadows rally in 2013

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A leading anti-choice researcher recently made some remarks at the Values Voters Summit (as if the rest of us don’t vote our values? but I digress!) that stray from the traditional anti-choice talking points, explicitly stating that increasing the cost of an abortion means that less women are able to get the procedure:

You can defund abortion by stopping Medicaid funding or by defunding Planned Parenthood. You can strengthen parental-involvement laws, by requiring both parents to be involved. You can strengthen informed-consent laws: Require the woman to see an ultrasound, or require two trips to the clinic. That raises the costs; that stops the abortion from happening.

Well, that is unfortunately true. Though generally the proponents of obstacles to abortion care – such as waiting periods, ultrasounds, etc. – frame these barriers in terms of giving women time to think, or “information,” or whatever they can muster that betrays their deep distrust of women to make informed decisions on their own, these revelatory remarks tell us that anti-choicers know exactly what they are doing: leaving access to abortion only for the wealthy.

Of course, reproductive justice advocates have known for a long time that the brunt of the weight of abortion restrictions falls on Latinas and other women of color, who are disproportionately poor. In fact, wealth has always facilitated access to abortion, even before Roe, when women who had the resources to do so flew to Sweden and Puerto Rico to get their procedures. The reality is today, and it always has been, that access to safe and legal abortion is an economic justice issue. Everything from waiting periods, to the added cost of an ultrasound, to the fact that federal Medicaid funds cannot go towards abortion hits low-income women and women of color the hardest. And the anti-choice movement knows exactly what they are doing.

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Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit published an opinion regarding self-induced abortions.  Idaho mother Jennie McCormack was charged with committing an “unlawful abortion” when she terminated her pregnancy by ordering RU-486 over the web.  McCormack is a single mother of three, was raised as a devout Mormon, and was barely scrapping by.  An abortion would have cost at least $500 and involved multiple trips to a clinic hours away, so she turned to the Internet.  As a result of deciding what was best for her family, she was prosecuted in Idaho under a myriad of laws that included a pre Roe law that criminalized women getting abortions and another that criminalized individuals other than physicians for performing abortions, and during her case, the prosecutor stated that “he was aghast at the idea that McCormack, an unmarried mother of three, was irresponsibly and repeatedly getting pregnant and not ‘protecting the fetus.’”

The Court of Appeals upheld the U.S. District Court for Idaho’s decision that McCormack could not be prosecuted because she was likely to succeed on her constitutional argument that Idaho’s criminal abortion laws enabled the prosecution and incarceration of women who have abortions.  The Court relied heavily on the arguments that McCormack’s attorney and the National Advocates for Pregnant Women and their allies made in issuing their ruling.  The Court ruled that women cannot be charged under “physician only” criminal statutes regarding abortion even if the law does not specifically say so, stating, “[T]here is no Supreme Court precedent that recognizes or suggests that third party criminal liability may extend to pregnant women who obtain an abortion in a manner inconsistent with state abortion statutes.”  Additionally, the Court emphasized the herculean obstacles that low-income women confront when accessing an abortion such as lack of providers, financial barriers, and harassment at clinics, and the medical, moral, and ethical factors women must weigh when making decisions about pregnancies.

The Latina Institute is thrilled that National Advocates for Pregnant Women and their partners, particularly McCormack’s attorney, successfully defeated Idaho’s attempt to criminalize women who are making wise decisions for their families.  However, as advocates for women’s health, including the right and access to have a safe abortion, we know that there will be other cases like this one.  In the future, it may be a Latina who is prosecuted under these laws.  Due to issues such as cultural and linguistic competency, geographic location, transportation, income, and lack of information, Latina women and others may turn to self-induced abortions.  In fact, we know that Latinas have needed to self induce abortions for the reasons stated above.   The laws on the books need to realistically support and protect the decisions women make about their pregnancies.  We don’t need laws that further erode, humiliate, and deny women the ability to make the right choices for themselves and their families.

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As women’s health advocates, we danced for joy on August 1st as we celebrated better access to many critical reproductive health services under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including well-woman visits, breastfeeding counseling & supplies, birth control and emergency contraception.  While this is an important first step in eliminating many of the health disparities faced by women of color, the new policies do not help to ensure the availability or affordability of abortion care. And this means some inequities in health care will persist, if not grow. (more…)

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This week, the House of Representatives returns to DC after a weeklong recess, and if recent history is any indication, immigrant women should be watching the chamber very closely. The last several weeks have seen an onslaught of legislative attacks on immigrant women, proving that the dangerous and distracting “War on Women” is now targeting our most marginalized and vulnerable populations.

First, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4970 – a bill which claims to reauthorize the historically bipartisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), but actually rolls back protections for immigrant women that have existed for almost 20 years. Then conservative lawmakers tried, but failed, to pass the so-called “Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act” or PRENDA which was engineered as an attack on the reproductive freedoms of women of color. And just before they left DC, Congress found time to pass the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Act (H.R. 5855), which includes a provision (Aderholt Amendment) that targets immigrant women’s reproductive health care with unnecessary and mean-spirited restrictions on access to abortion.

Sadly, these sexist, racist, and xenophobic attacks on immigrant women are not confined to Washington, DC. Just last Friday, Arizona Sherrif Joe Arpaio’s office detained a 6-year-old undocumented girl—despite the DHS announcement that same day that young people are to be considered for immediate relief from deportation.

It’s shameless. The good news? Women’s health, reproductive justice, and immigrants’ rights advocates are fighting back, and making our voices heard across the country. National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights (NCIWR) Steering Committee members National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) were joined by over 50 national, state, and local organizations in standing with immigrant women and opposing the Aderholt Amendment, and the outpouring of solidarity was remarkable. Now we’re ready to take it to the next level.

Here are five ways you can participate:

  1. Sign the letter: Join the growing coalition of local, state, and national groups who stand with immigrant women and oppose the Aderholt amendment and other attacks on immigrant women’s health. Email natalie@latinainstitute.org to add your organization to the list.
  2. Participate in our Tweet Chat: Join us TODAY from 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm ET (12:00 pm – 1:30 pm PT) on Wednesday June 20 and use the hashtag #Health4ImmigrantWomen to ask questions, share stories from your community, amplify your work, and collaborate with others. We’ll be on hand to answer questions and help to make connections.
  3. Send an action alert: Share this action alert with your listervs and networks.
  4. Write a blog post: Write a quick post on your blog anytime between June 20-25 about why you stand with immigrant women and why immigrant women’s health matters.
  5. Join NCIWR: Review our principles here and fill out the form to apply for membership.

Need more information? Please contact Kimberly Inez McGuire at National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health or Shivana Jorawar at National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.

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Rep. Aderholt (AL-4th), on the right, at the May 16, 2012 Mark-Up of the DHS Appropriations Bill, where he introduced the dangerous “Aderholt Amendment” restricting abortion funding for immigrant women in detention.

VAWA. PRENDA. Aderholt.

What do all these words (and acronyms) have in common?

They represent the three latest attacks on women’s health, safety, and reproductive justice. However, the War on Women has been raging continuously in the 112th Congress.  So what else connects these three?  They represent the escalating attacks on the health and rights of women of color, and immigrant women in particular—their right to reproductive health care, their access to protections from intimate partner violence and other crimes, and their right to bodily autonomy.

Let’s start with the most recent affront: the Aderholt amendment. Last night the House of Representatives passed the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act (H.R. 5855), which includes a provision (Aderholt Amendment) that targets immigrant women’s reproductive health care with unnecessary and mean-spirited restrictions on access to abortion. The provision prohibits federal funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to provide abortion care for women in ICE detention centers—adding yet another layer to the harmful restrictions the Hyde amendment already puts in place.

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), outraged over the politicized attack on some of the most vulnerable women in our society, led an effort to unite over 50 national, state, and local organizations in opposition the provision—a group that includes reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates as well as faith-based groups, advocates for Latinos health, and groups that represent immigrants, refugees, and LGBTQ people.

In a letter to the House of Representatives, this diverse group united to express deep concern that the Aderholt amendment would take us backwards, making life harder for women in federal immigration custody. Women in detention are separated from their children, their partners, and their health care providers. They have been denied HIV medication, forced to give birth in shackles, and sexually assaulted by guards. This amendment, and any restriction on access to reproductive health care, is yet another insult and humiliation for women who are already facing terrible circumstances. Immigrant women’s health should never be used as a political bargaining chip.

Rep. Adams (FL- 24) introduced H.R. 4970, a bill which takes the VAWA name, but strips protections for immigrant victims that have existed for nearly 20 years.

Rep. Adams (FL- 24) introduced H.R. 4970, a bill which takes the VAWA name, but strips protections for immigrant victims that have existed for nearly 20 years.

However, this attack did not operate in a vacuum. It represents a variation on the theme of stripping away the rights of immigrant women, a theme which is alarming, and growing. Just last month, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4970 – a bill which claims to reauthorize the historically bipartisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), but actually rolls back protections for immigrant women that have existed for almost 20 years. Since it was first signed into law, VAWA has been reauthorized twice. And each time, both parties worked together to advance protections for all victims, including immigrants. This time around, the House bill reversed protections for immigrant women and excluded advances included in the Senate bill for LGBTQ victims of violence.

And just last week, the House of Representatives attempted (but thankfully failed) to pass the so-called “Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act” or PRENDA which was engineered as an attack on the reproductive freedoms of women of color. The bill claims to outlaw abortion motivated by sex-selection, and would have imposed strict criminal and civil penalties on abortion care providers who fail to determine the motives of their patients. The bill was first introduced as the “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act” and additionally banned abortions on the basis of race of the fetus. While the race-related language was stripped from the bill, PRENDA remained an attack on color and immigrant women under the guise of protecting women, pushed forward by legislators with little to no history of supporting gender equity.

Immigrant women deserve better than this onslaught of abuse. They are mothers, daughters, tias, workers, mentors, and valuable members of communities across this country. Their ability to access reproductive health care and  protections from violence are critical to their pursuit of a healthful life in the United States and to the promise of fairness, justice, and equal opportunity.

We urge you to join us in this call to support the lives of immigrant women. Please visit the website of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health for more information.

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