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Archive for the ‘Healthy Pregnancies’ Category

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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By Hilarie Meyers, Development Intern

Earlier this year, the Virginia House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee killed a bill (HB 1488) that would have limited the use of restraints and shackles on incarcerated pregnant women.

The bill only proposed limited reforms to current practices by “[limiting] the restraint of pregnant inmates during labor, transport to a medical facility, delivery, or postpartum recovery in the commonwealth’s correctional facilities.” Though far from comprehensive, HB 1488 would have provided a basic level of protection for pregnant inmates in Virginia, representing a moment of progress in a state with an already unacceptable “F+” status quo for treatment of incarcerated women. However, the bill’s defeat undoubtedly marks a step backwards in the fight to promote the rights and wellbeing of women, children, and prisoners.

The story of HB 1488 sheds light on the use of shackles and restraints on incarcerated pregnant women at both prisons and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers around the country.  This practice demonstrates a disregard for the health and rights of incarcerated women and their children.  In fact, a number of major correctional and medical associations (including the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Medical Association) oppose the use of restraints on pregnant women and new mothers and for good reason: the practice can and often does have detrimental effects on the physical and mental health of both mother and child.

According to RH Reality Check, a shackled inmate is more likely to fall and injure herself and/or her child. Shackling can lead to harmful complications during labor, delivery, and the postpartum recovery process, all of which require mobility.  According to Amnesty International:

Physician Dr. Patricia Garcia notes that “women in labor need to be mobile so that they can assume various positions…Having the woman in shackles compromises the ability to manipulate her legs into the proper position for treatment. The mother and baby’s health could be compromised if there were complications during delivery such as hemorrhage or decrease in fetal heart beat. If there were a need for a C Section, the mother needs to be moved to an operating room immediately and a delay of even five minutes could result in permanent brain damage for the baby. …”

Numerous women, such as Shawanna Nelson, whose story was featured in the New York Times, have reported lasting damage to their health after being forced to give birth while immobilized and, in Nelson’s case, without sufficient pain medication.

(more…)

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For the last couple of years, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health has been doing a lot to turn around the conversation on teen pregnancy and young motherhood. From sitting on advisory tables on reproductive health at the White House, to releasing our white paper on removing stigma, to working with legislators to introduce legislation that would help young mothers succeed, we’ve been challenging the stigmatizing narratives that paint young mothers as irresponsible, hopeless, and drains on the state.

We’ve been telling legislators, colleagues, and advocates around the nation what Latina activists on the ground have known for a long time: that the circumstances of pregnancy and birth exist within a context of racial and socioeconomic inequity; that any conversation about teen pregnancy is incomplete without a conversation about access to the full range of reproductive health care for young people, including abortion; and that young women who choose to become mothers continue to be human, and deserve as much opportunity to lead fulfilling lives as women who delay their pregnancies or choose not to parent at all.

So it is with great excitement that we present our newest campaign: What’s the Real Problem?

So that you can take this work to your community, we’ve put together a toolkit for different ways to discuss this issue in your community, from film screenings to story collecting; and a very cool poster, which has some useful facts on the back, for you to put up as a conversation-starter and use as a reference. We’ve worked really hard on these materials and are super proud of them, and we hope you’ll find them useful and accessible (they’re bilingual). We think that with these materials, you can help us steer the conversation in the right direction, and get folks asking themselves what the real problem is when it comes to young motherhood.

Let us know what you think!

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