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Archive for the ‘Maternity’ Category

Post By Nicole Catá

Originally from Cortlandt, NY by way of Flushing, NY, Nicole Catá now studies at The George Washington University Law School and the Elliott School of International Affairs.  During her time as an undergraduate student at Columbia University, she worked from January to August 2010 as a policy and advocacy intern at the Latina Institute.  Nicole spent this summer as a legal intern at National Advocates for Pregnant Women and will work this fall as a student attorney for the International Human Rights Clinic at GW Law School.  Nicole will serve as the president of GW Law School’s chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice during the 2013-14 school year.

Birth Justice as a Matter of Reproductive Justice

With news of Prince George’s birth dominating the Internet, it may be helpful to highlight the lived realities of birthing experiences in the United States for women of color. Given that the royal birth cost $15,000, whereas the average cost of birth in the United States is $30,000, you have to wonder whether we’re getting what we pay for.  For poor, uninsured women of color in the United States, too often the answer is “no.”

Last year, Denene Millner published a piece called “Birthing While Black” that details the abysmal treatment she received at an upper Manhattan hospital while delivering her first daughter.  Despite having paid for “upgrades” to secure the birth experience she had envisioned, Millner catalogues a litany of maltreatments she experienced the moment her baby was born.  For example, she describes as follows:

Once in the private room, the nurses disappeared for nine hours! Seriously. Nine. I had no diapers. No idea how to breastfeed properly (and no bottle or milk to feed my baby if I chose to formula feed). No instructions on what to do to care for my post-birth body (was it okay to walk? Pee? Wash?). Nothing. I seriously thought I was being punished for asking (nicely) for what I’d paid for. When a nurse finally did show up, she came with a “gift bag” full of formula and coupons for… formula.

Millner’s piece highlights the injustices too often leveled against women of color on what should be the happiest days of their lives.  The notion that she was treated so poorly after having paid for hospital upgrades speaks volumes about what poor, uninsured women of color face when giving birth in many hospitals around the country.

We know that everyone deserves access to high-quality health care, that birth justice is a matter of reproductive justice, and that health and dignity are human rights.  Millner reminds us that everyone deserves to be treated like royalty during and after their birthing experiences.

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“I’ll count to 10 and you hide!”
“That’s not fair, I WAN TO COUNT!”
“I’ll count and you can count next time?”
“Ok!”
“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10! Ready or not, here I come!”

The kids ran around the conference room looking for each other, oblivious to the fact that their mom’s and dad’s were in the other room getting information and building on their skills in order to raise healthier families and better futures.

Playing hide and seek in a conference room

Playing hide and seek in a conference room

However, it wasn’t all rainbow colored ponies. As I took a small break from the conference and made my way to the bathroom, I caught a conversation between two of the guards on the floor. Both were annoyed at the children. The screaming, laughing, jumping and overall awesomeness was too much for them. Complaints were exchanged about several things. Both agreed that the work environment was being disrupted because of the presence of children (I’ll mention that it was Saturday).

Some of the young families and their supporters

Some of the young families and their supporters

Were the kids really bothering anyone? No.

They were simply being kids. How do moms and dads get work done while raising a kid? Easy. They’re super heroes.

Maybe, if you opened up your mind and watched these kids laughing and playing you wouldn’t be so quick to complain. I had a headache from all the screaming but was able to function perfectly fine. Maybe, a notice should have been put up in the hallway that there was going to be kids on the floor that day. Maybe, if event spaces and public spaces were as welcoming to families as they are to food and drinks, organizers wouldn’t have to get creative and turn offices into day cares. Unsafe spaces shouldn’t have to transform into play areas only because most spaces are dominated by patriarchy. Bringing a child to a conference or event is not wrong. And feeding your child at an event or public space is not wrong. C’mon. In a country where women exhibit breasts on almost all ads, is breastfeeding really that disgusting?

Octavia and her son Tracy

Octavia and her son Tracy

Maybe, if resources were made available to young mom organizers and supporters, spaces where families are welcome would be accessible. If everyone just stopped for a moment and opened our minds and hearts to something new. To all the haters, keep in mind that young family gatherings are not about you but about the future of the kids in front of you.

photo 1

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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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By Nicole Catá, Policy Intern

In a recent Newsweek article, J. Lester Feder argues that health-policy strategies geared toward Latino communities must take into account the cultural diversity of different Latino groups.  He explains:

With Latinos now accounting for more than 15 percent of the U.S. population, there is a great deal of emphasis on health outreach to the “Hispanic community.”  But the truth is, the diversity of the Hispanic population means that to be truly effective, outreach must target many different Hispanic subcommunities. Knowing that someone is “Latino” or “Hispanic” does not tell a health-care worker what language she speaks, what foods she eats, or where she was born.

The varied experiences of Latino communities inform the approaches of organizations that work directly in areas with large Latino populations.  For example, the Institute of Hispanic Health at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) operates in communities across the U.S. with the support of 300 affiliated groups and uses a method that instructs promotores de salud, or health promoters, within the communities they assist.  NCLR trains the promoters to produce interventions that will strike a chord with the specific demographic with which they’ll be interacting.

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Veronica Bayetti Flores, our Senior Policy Analyst, published this great article about young motherhood in the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Newsletter.

An excerpt:

…The current discourse surrounding young motherhood is both stigmatizing and insensitive, and presents young motherhood as a problem in itself as opposed to the real problems that often surround it, such as poverty and lack of access. Though many young women who become young mothers do not plan their pregnancies, many other young mothers do plan their pregnancies, and these decisions must be both respected and supported. Women of all ages become mothers for many reasons, and it is not the business of the state or anyone else to attempt to control anyone’s fertility, regardless of their age.

As a reproductive health organization, we support many of the policies that are put in place to “address teen pregnancy”: comprehensive sexuality education, increased affordability and access to contraception, and the expansion of public programs that address reproductive health, such as Title X and Medicaid, are a few examples of these policies. However, we support these policies as part of a platform to increase women’s ability to make informed choices that are relevant to their lives, and not as an attempt for the state to control young women’s fertility.

Read the rest here.

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Earlier this month, Save the Children’s 11th Annual State of the World’s Mothers Report was released.

The United States did not make the top 10 countries on the list, nor did it land in the top 25. The US was ranked 28th, below most of Western Europe. The authors cite a 1 in 4800 maternal mortality rate (one of the highest in the developed world), as a key factor for our deplorable ranking. The report states that:

a child in the U.S. more than twice as likely as a child in Finland, Iceland, Sweden or Singapore to die before his or her fifth birthday.

The United States continues to neglect mothers by having the “least generous maternity leave policy – both in terms of duration and percent of wages paid – of any wealthy nation.”

So, what can be done to bridge this gap? The report notes that governments “need to increase funding to improve education levels for women and girls, provide access to maternal and child health care and advance women’s economic opportunities.”

Although I applaud the Obama administration for passing a health care reform bill that will allocate $11 billion in new funding to community health centers, in addition to other protections for mothers, an important population was entirely left out of the legislation: undocumented immigrants. Any improvement seen in the conditions for mothers will be lost on this population if we don’t include them in our legislative efforts.

The United States needs to step their game up by giving the mothers and children of our country the adequate care and services they obviously and so desperately need.

By Krystal Chan, Development and Communications Intern

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In the latest issue of Hispanic Magazine, journalist Betty Cortina dedicates an article to the “disturbing” rates of Latina teen pregnancy in the US entitled “A Growing Problem.” Although I applaud her for bringing this issue to the forefront of Hispanic Magazine’s readers, I can’t help but think her information was a little one-sided.

At the beginning of the article, Cortina ridicules her own family for being happy for her pregnant 15 year old cousin. She blames our culture for looking at an unwanted pregnancy as a blessing. Next, she goes on to cite a Texas school district as having one of the “most successful teen pregnancy programs” in the country. She believes that letting the young mothers stay in their original schools serves two purposes; one being that it allows them to finish school and graduate, and two it acts as a deterrent for the rest of the girls in the school.

Although I believe in programs that offer services like child care and transportation to help teen moms finish school, I don’t believe that the “scare tactic” is the best approach to reducing teen pregnancy. I was very disappointed to see that Cortina did not choose to highlight a school with a sexual and reproductive health education program instead.

The author continues by highlighting the Mary’s Center executive director, Maria Gomez. The Mary’s Center is known for providing essential reproductive health services to teen parents, but also many social services to thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Maryland area. Agreeing with Gomez, Cortina concludes by saying that the best solution to reducing teen pregnancy in our communities is to have more role models. She says that as successful Latinas, we “forget” that we have a responsibility to mentor those left behind.

Of course she doesn’t mention social conditions, the impact of economics, or even our political conditions. Once again, it’s our own fault. I’ve seen the work that organizations such as NLIRH and other reproductive justice organizations do on a day-to-day basis. To say that we have forgotten about our communities is completely false and misses the broader point: changing our community isn’t just about individual responsibility, it’s also about the broader society and how it impacts us.

By Krystal Chan, Development and Communications Intern

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Today, at the start of National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, we released Removing Stigma: Towards a Complete Understanding of Young Latinas’ Sexual Health, an up-to-date research analysis of young Latinas’ sexual health and the impact of current policies.

The research is clear: traditional teen pregnancy prevention campaigns that rely on stigma and shame simply don’t work. Latinas and their families need health resources that recognize their unique experiences.

Download the full report here and read the press release here.

The report will be available in spanish shortly.

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An article published online last week in the journal Pediatrics suggests that $13 billion and over 900 infants’ lives could be saved if 90% of infants were breastfed exclusively for six months.

According to the most recent recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfeeding is beneficial to the health of both the mother and child. It may decrease rates of ovarian and breast cancer among women and bone-related injuries and diseases. The AAP recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for six months, and non-exclusively breastfed for the first year and beyond as desired.

In this study, the authors undergo a cost analysis using data from previous studies. They calculated the approximate number of infants that are breastfed and the number that are not exclusively breastfed using data from a 2005 CDC survey. Then, they looked at a collection of diseases for which a lower risk has been reported for exclusively breastfed infants and the associated health costs for those diseases. The study did not look at every disease associated with breastfeeding, and in particular left out type 2 diabetes because of insufficient data. The overall conclusion shows that the US incurs billions of dollars in excess costs due to the

At the end of the day, breastfeeding is a lifestyle choice. However, given its health benefits, it should be a more accessible option for women who do prefer to breastfeed their children. Not every mother-child pair is capable of breastfeeding, but those that are should be able to do so without excessive inconvenience. Today, many women are unable to breastfeed their infants due to inadequate maternity leave, inability to take time off of work, and insufficient access to counseling about lactation. Additionally, healthcare providers often fail to inform women about the benefits of breastfeeding, and are unable to give women practical advice regarding breastfeeding.

Increasing support services for breastfeeding could save hundreds of lives and billions of dollars, which could be directed towards saving additional lives.

By Zarah Iqbal, Policy Intern

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The Governor of Utah, Gary Herbert has signed into law a bill that would charge a woman with criminal homicide if she knowingly carries out a self-abortion. In order analyze the impact this law will have on Latinas, particularly immigrant and low-income Latinas, let’s take a step back and review how this law, with its deep contempt for women on all levels, got passed in the first place.

Whereas many states have laws already in existence regarding fetal homicide, legislators in the state of Utah put forth a bill criminalizing “any act resulting from a woman who knowingly, recklessly, or intentionally causes a miscarriage”, in which the pregnant woman herself may spend 15 to life in prison. That bill was returned to legislators because although Gov. Herbert agreed with the goal of the bill, he “also believes very strongly that the state should not enact a law with unintended consequences.”  Indeed, Marina Lowe, the of the Utah American Civil Liberties Union had advised Mr. Herbert to veto this bill due to the consequences that could arise.  She said, “So many things can happen, and it’s all in the eye of the beholder – that’s what’s very dangerous about this legislation.” In other words, Herbert was concerned that if a woman had a miscarriage due to say, a fall on a patch of ice, there was the possibility that she would be criminally charged. The solution? The word “recklessly” was removed from the bill and on March 8 Gov. Herbert signed into a law a bill that allows homicide charges to be brought against women themselves for ending their own pregnancy.

We still need to bring light the dangers that this law, whose authors had creatively invented something called “criminal miscarriage,” still poses for many women.  The bill proposed was a response to what happened about a year ago, where a 17 year old that did not want to carry her pregnancy to term paid a man $150 to beat her up, anticipating that the outcome would be a miscarriage.   While I agree that these circumstances should not happen to any woman who does not want to carry her pregnancy to full term, this law makes no headway in preventing it. Even with a cursory understanding of this law, it is clear that it in no way addresses the reality of the situation- that women are not able get affordable, timely abortion services, particularly adolescents.

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