Archive for the ‘Healthy Pregnancies’ Category

On the 35th anniversary of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), we are reminded that women of color experience multiple forms of discrimination because of their race, gender, immigration status, sexual orientation, and yes even when they become pregnant.  In fact, this discrimination often translates into poor health outcomes for these women and their children.  Last year, researchers found that discrimination against young, pregnant, urban women of color contributed to symptoms of depression and consequently, lower birth weight, an indicator of poor future health for their children.  In that study, 62% of its participants were Latina.

Although we know women of color experience discrimination, we often don’t talk about how they suffer from workplace discrimination if they become pregnant.  Many women of color and immigrant women, particularly Latinas, are disproportionately represented in low-earning, physically demanding jobs.  For instance, more than 750,000 Latinas work in the production, transportation, and material moving occupations and another nearly 2.7 million Latinas are employed in the service industry.  There have been a disproportionate number of pregnancy discrimination claims from these employment sectors.  If a Latina becomes pregnant and her employer refuses to make slight accommodations that would allow her to stay healthy and keep her job, then she is forced to choose between her health and her paycheck.  For example, an accommodation for a cashier could be as simple as allowing her to sit on a stool rather than standing on her feet or allowing her to have additional break time.  To make matters worse, many women of color are the sole breadwinners for their household.  An employer who refuses to make these accommodations jeopardizes the economic security of a Latina and her family, and possibly, her ability to have access to health care.

One way to mark the anniversary of the PDA is to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.  Although  PDA outlaws discrimination based on pregnancy, employers are still getting away with pushing pregnant, women of color out of the workplace.  The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would build on existing law by requiring employers to give reasonable accommodations when workers need them due to pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions, just like they do for workers who face similar limitations.  As a result, it will ensure that women of color, including Latinas, can continue working while staying healthy.  If you think pregnant, women of color workers deserve fair treatment and should be able to keep their jobs, take action here.

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Leydi Bautista – young mother of two

My mother decided to have me at the age of 20 without any support from my “father” or our family. She was a young mother, living in poor conditions in Colombia, who barely made enough money to support herself, much less raise a child. Despite all this, she was able to provide for me and for my siblings as they came. However, I oftentimes imagine how different things would have been if my mother had a support system pre, during, and post pregnancy. I wonder how many more young mothers are out there without anyone to turn to or anyone who shares their experiences and can lend a shoulder to lean on. Which is why I’m so excited for the work the young mother’s group in New York is going to do.

Young mothers during their first training

The first time this group of young mothers set foot into the office they were shy and hesitant to open up about the hardships they’ve faced as young mothers. Their babies sat on our office floor, too scared to ask for snacks or even a juice box. With time, the mothers got to know each other better, they shared their fears of not becoming someone, of hating baby throw up, of deciding not to have an abortion even though they knew it would be difficult from here on after. Many gatherings that led to a briefing in Washington DC where these mothers stressed the importance of investing in them. They walked around DC with a sense of ownership; owning their stories, their experiences, their struggles, their goals, hopes and aspirations for the future that awaits them and their babies too.

Poderosa young mothers in DC

Marymar, one of the young mothers who went to DC shared her experience with us:

It was a fun experience and I would love to do more things like that. I felt motivated. I want to continue being vocal about the issues young mother’s face and to get more girls to do this. Even though there are people that don’t think about our future, we have to do it! We have to do everything we can to make sure others work with us and help us out. I want my kids to look up to me and to be proud of me. I’m doing all this so they can be happy. I want my daughter to one day say, “that’s my mother!” and that she’ll follow in my footsteps and help others. All I want to do is be somebody in life and everyone will see that I made it even though they didn’t believe I could. I will make it, that is a promise.

For these moms, the journey is not over though, it has just begun. As we continue to grow together and learn from each we hope to see real change in our community. These young moms are determined to obtain the resources they need to help their families or to create paths that are not there for them the way my mother did. From having access to child care, scholarships, food and shelter, comprehensive sex education to parent only parks, they will continue to fight for it all. But they won’t be alone.

Perlita and her baby boy

One thing is certain; they are not fighting for themselves but for their kid(s). Their kids are the reason they are able to get out of bed sometimes, why some of them are still enrolled in college even though it is so difficult to find child care. Their kids are the reason why they’re standing up to the injustices and inequalities they face every day. Because some day, things will change, and their little ones will be there to witness it and know their mothers fought for this. Without realizing it, these moms have already become someone in life. They are warriors and creators of their own destinies.

If you are also a young mom in New York and you’d like to get involved with us, connect with us here. Also, check out this video of the young mothers in DC.

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Young woman holding her child, who is holding a sign that says "Soy Poderosa and my voice matters because I will fight for a better tomorrow for my daughter and I"

Jóvenes poderosas!

Hace unas semanas, el Instituto Nacional de Latinas para la Salud Reproductiva (NLIRH por sus siglas en inglés) tuvo la gran oportunidad de acompañar a un grupo de madres jóvenes de Nueva York a Washington, DC. En Washington, estas jóvenes hablaron con congresistas y nuestros colegas sobre sus experiencias como madres jóvenes y la situación de las madres jovenes en sus vidas y comunidades. Hablaron de cual es el problema en realidad cuando se trata de las madres jóvenes (es decir, la falta de acceso a recursos como cuidado de salud incluyendo anticonceptivos y al cuidado de niños asequible) y como el presupuesto nacional afecta a estas familias.

El presupuesto nacional es importante para las madres y familias jóvenes porque en este se dedican los fondos para programas imporantes para la salud de esta comunidad – programas como el Título X, el cual provee cuidado de salud reproductiva, y programas como el Fondo de Desarrollo y Cuidado de Niños, el cual provee cuidado para los niños de algunas mujeres de bajos ingresos.  Pero por las divisiones corrientes en el Congreso, es posible que, en vez de decidir con cuidado donde se puede recortar el presupuesto para poder bajar la deuda del país, se hagan recortes devastadores a través del presupuesto entero, recortando y a veces eliminando programas esenciales para las latinas. Este método de recortes es el secuestro fiscal (“sequestration” o “sequester” en inglés).

Este plan de recortes se diseñó para obligar al Congreso a tomar decisiones difíciles; nunca se tuvo el propósito de que estos recortes entraran en vigor. Pero ahora, por falta de acción del Congreso, es posible que  esta sea nuestra realidad. Recortar los gastos de esta manera simplemente no tiene sentido.

En vez de recortar programas que afectarían a las familias jóvenes y a las Latinas de bajos ingresos, el Congreso debe recortar el déficit mediante el cierre de vacíos legales de impuestos corporativos y la suspensión de subsidios a las compañías petroleras grandes en un momento en que estas jamás han sido tan rentables.  Podemos ahorrar dinero si les recortamos los subsidios a los millonarios y modificamos el código de impuestos de manera que sea más sencillo y más justo para las familias Latinas.

Por ahora, estamos esperando el próximo paso, listas para tomar acción. No podemos dejar que simplemente recorten los programas esenciales para las latinas sabiendo que hay mejores maneras de que el país pague la deuda nacional.

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We’ve been following the case of Juana Villegas since the beginning. Just over a week after she gave birth, shackled, while in in jail due to her immigration status, we covered it here on Nuestra Vida, Nuestra Voz as an all-too-real example of the ways that immigration enforcement tactics hurt immigrant women and families. Shortly afterward, the New York Times covered Juana’s story, and it became a prominent if all-too-common reminder of the importance of considering gender in immigration advocacy.

I am incredibly happy to hear that last week, a judge in Nashville awarded Juana $1.1 milion to cover her attorney’s fees and other expenses during the three-year ordeal of lawsuits and appeals. Most importantly, the judge also certified a U-visa – a visa category that is available to undocumented victims of crime who may fear reporting them for fear of deportation. While this certainly does not represent justice – in a just world, this would never have happened in the first place – it is certainly positive that a court has recognized that Juana’s rights have been violated.

Of course, this is just one of many cases, most of which never make it to the media’s attention. With immigration enforcement programs such as Secure Communities taking hold across the U.S. and states taking immigration enforcement into their own hands, there is still much work to do.

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Long-time NLIRH friend Miriam Z. Pérez, aka the Radical Doula, pointed out to us a very cool new resource: the California Pregnant and Parenting Youth Guide!

This Guide is for you if you are under 18 years old, you live in California, and you are pregnant or are already a parent. The Guide answers your questions about the law for pregnant or parenting minors.

The guide, put together by the National Partnership for Women and Families, answers questions about young people’s options regarding a pregnancy, how to access health care, and provides a great list of resources for young people who are pregnant or parenting in California. The guide is fabulous – comprehensive, understanding of youth issues, not patronizing or stigmatizing of young mothers, and it’s also in Spanish! Check it out!

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Immigration has been one of the most explosive and divisive issues in politics in the past few years. Along with a few otehr issues (such as access to abortion services), the immigration debate has gotten a lot of play, and often the  media does not play nice. One phrase in particular, however, has been repeated over and over, in an attempt to both demonize immigrants and dehumanize women: “anchor baby.” The phrase has been everywhere, implying that immigrants give birth to children in the U.S. as a quick and easy way to get citizenship for themselves. This is, of course, incorrect; the time frame of a U.S. citizen child of immigrants to reach the age at which they could petition their parents and then going through the process of petitioning is decades, and is not exactly easy or cheap. But because of the popularity of the phrase, the New American Heritage Dictionary added it to its next volume. However, the definition is the following:

anchor babyn. A child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially such a child born to parents seeking to secure eventual citizenship for themselves and often other members of their family.

Say what? Nowhere in the definition is there a mention that this is a pejorative and hateful term. The dictionary’s executive editor claims that they must remain objective even on politically charged words, but it seems a huge oversight to not include that this is in fact a term that is used to insult and demean. What do you think?

UPDATE: USA Today has a poll going – “Is the phrase ‘anchor baby’ derogatory?” Go let them know what you think!

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At NLIRH we’ve been focusing a lot on the mom’s in our communities lately. As Silvia said in a recent email, “Mothers like mine are at the core of the reproductive justice movement – they help keep our families strong and vibrant; keep us healthy, fed and free from harm; and are the leaders in our communities.”

Sunday commemorates Mother’s Day, and this year we want to talk about how the young moms in our communities are treated. Our new campaign, What’s the Real Problem? draws attention to how the rhetoric of teen pregnancy prevention often puts blame on young women of color for bigger social problems like poverty and poor health outcomes. Young moms need support, not stigma.

The Strong Families Initiative, which NLIRH partners with, is doing similar work this mother’s day. They’ve renamed it “Mama’s Day” and they are encouraging people to send love to all the mamas in their communities. The video below is a part of that work.

Happy Mama’s Day everyone!

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Gaby Rodriguez, a high school senior, standing with a microphone in front of a slideshow presentation

Gaby Rodriguezpresenting in front of her classmates. Photo Credit: Yakima Herald

The last couple of weeks have brought us two amazing instances of young women speaking out about pregnant and parenting youth. In one case, Gaby Rodriguez, a high school student from Washington state, faked a pregnancy as a social experiment and critique of the stigma surrounding pregnant young women:

 Only a handful of people — her mother, boyfriend and principal among them — knew Gaby was pretending to be pregnant for her senior project, a culminating assignment required for graduation….But Gaby didn’t give up the charade until Wednesday morning, when she revealed her secret during an emotional, all-school assembly.

The topic of her presentation: “Stereotypes, rumors and statistics.”

“Teenagers tend to live in the shadows of these elements,” she says.

This brave young woman is right on it, pointing out and calling out the ways that pregnant young women are stigmatized, and challenging that stigma. It’s clear that what pregnant and parenting young people need is support, not stigma. Which brings us to the second instance of young women of color speaking out on this issue: the young women of the Catherine Ferguson Academy.

The Catherine Ferguson Academy (CFA) is a public school in Detroit for pregnant and parenting young women, providing on-site childcare, prenatal care, and other support to their students. Faced with budget shortfalls, Detroit is planning to close down several schools, and CFA is slated for closing after this summer – but CFA’s students took matters into their own hands, and staged a sit-in to protest the closings.

“When people at my regular high school realized that I was pregnant, I was told my chances of being a success in life were over,” said Ashley Matthews, a junior at CFA. “At Catherine Ferguson, they told me they wouldn’t allow me to be anything BUT a success. I love CFA, and I am prepared to fight to keep it open, not only for myself, but for all the girls who will come behind me.”  

In a city with low graduation rates, CFA boasts a 90% graduation rate, and a 100% of graduates go on to college. These numbers go to show that when young parents are supported they can and do succeed. The young women of CFA now know this, and were willing to resist with civil disobedience – the sit-in participants were arrested, some of them in front of their small children – to show their district just how important the school is to them.

These young women are all heroes, and are making the point over and over again: support, not stigma, is what young women need – whether trying to access reproductive health services or raise a child.

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