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Archive for the ‘Reproductive Justice’ Category

Post By Gloria Malone

The Care Center is “an alternative education program for pregnant and parenting teens who have dropped out of high school. The Care Center seeks to “provide access to arts and culture [while] supporting struggling young families as they move toward self-sufficiency.”

 

Walking through the house was amazing, they had artwork from the teenage mothers all over the halls, positive messaging, and helpful resources from wall to wall for all their students. 

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The young women who were there for the workshop were very friendly and open but once Leydi and myself started opening up about our personal experiences as teenage mothers the room became a lot more comfortable for all of us. 

 

The workshop included a brief history of the systemic oppression all women face and how women of color have been disproportionately affected by this, a mock office visit with an elected official, and a lesson on legislative affairs.

 

We shared stories of triumph and pain while learning and teaching one another how to channel all of our stories into advocacy. 

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The real shame that surrounds teenage parents is not our lives but the fact that societal stigmas diminish our lives while simultaneously refusing to hear our powerful stories. 

 

Hearing the stories from my peers inspired me and helped remind me why we should all be proud to be who we are despite the flaws society says we have. 

 

The young mothers in the room were ready to learn more about the social constructs in place that have the ability to keep us in a certain place unless we work to change that. They put their all into learning how to speak to their audience and how to identify their audience. 

 

NLIRH is doing great work with teenage families in an effort to help them help themselves work for their communities and families. 

 

The distinction is important. 

While some organizations are more interested in “fixing a problem” with out ever listening to the person, NLIRH wants and understands they need to hear from you to know where to meet you. 

 

When you know that a person, an organization, or any other group of individuals what’s to help you help yourself in a judgment free way that makes a world of a difference. 

 

This is what NLIRH has done for me, my peers, and the fact that they asked Leydi and I to help them facilitate a workshop further proves to me that they are interested in working with teenage families and not just prescribe a one size fits all “fix.” 

 

I hope that the young moms at the care center left feeling the same way and feeling empowered to create the change they want to see. I know I left with their stories in my head and my heart.

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Post Written by Valentina Forte-Hernandez

Note: In this blogpost Latin@ with an @ is used to be inclusive of all gender identities.

Take a moment to think of some of your favorite celebrities. Do you have a few in mind? Good, now take some time to think of your favorite queer, Latin@ celebrities. I’m not talking about inspirational activists, independent artists I’m talking about super stars. I’m talking about the people you see on billboards, in commercials, on the cover of magazines. It’s tough, right? The queer community and the Latino/a community are both individually underrepresented in popular culture. Queer and Latin@ representation is virtually non-existent in mainstream media. So what does it matter? Why do we need Latin@s represented in our media? LGBTQ Latin@ youth are suffering. They are being bullied, harassed and killed. Many of them have no adults in their lives they feel they can turn to, and almost all of them believe they must leave their current communities to live happy successful lives. Some people say that it is more difficult for LGBTQ Latin@s to come to terms with and be open about their sexuality because of the unique cultural values many Latino/a communities have. This idea ignores our societies’ responsibility to represent and support Latin@s, it blames Latino/a communities for their values and tells Latin@ youth that they must choose between being Latino/a and being queer. We should bring Latin@s into the spotlight to show our communities that we’re here, our identities are complex and valid. We deserve love and respect. We should be teaching Latino/a communities how to incorporate LGBTQ Latin@s into Latino/a culture, not telling them that their cultural values must be ignored.

Photo By Victoria Ramos

Photo By Victoria Ramos

The two main cultural values that are cited as being exclusive to LGBTQ Latin@s are religion and the importance of family. Religion has been used to oppress queer folks of all racial and ethnic identities. Using religion to deny the identities of queer Latin@s is making the assumption that being religious and being queer are mutually exclusive. A study of LGBTQ Latin@s called The Social Justice Sexuality Project shows that 60% of Latin@s look to their faith to provide meaning and purpose in their life, disproving that it is impossible to be both queer and religious. Religion is not a one size fits all suit, nobody practices their religion the exact same way as anyone else. The majority of Latino/as believe in Catholicism and though the Old Testament says that male homosexuality is a sin, there are quite a few sins that are punishable by death that have been ignored in the modern day including lying about one’s virginity, being a stubborn or and rebellious son and failing to pen a bull that is known to be dangerous and many more. Is it more important to follow every rule in the bible literally, or to follow the overall belief that God loves all of His children and we honor and love our neighbors and family? It is important to be respectful of religion and not to dismiss it as wrong or ignorant. Religion is an essential part of many peoples’ lives, however it should be recognized that religion is something that is learned and practiced while sexual identity is something we are born and live with. No one needs to abandon their religion to accept LGBTQ people, one just needs to realize that the importance of loving one another is a more valuable aspect of being religious than following the rules exactly as they were written thousands of years ago.

To say that valuing family excludes accepting LGBTQ Latin@s assumes that only “traditional” families are of value. Family love should be unconditional, and generally in Latino/a communities it is. The Social Justice Sexuality Project indicates that 52.9% of LGBTQ Latin@s feel supported by their families and another 29% feel somewhat supported. Another study of LQBTQ Latin@ youth indicates that 60% of Latin@ youth feels their family supports LGBTQ identities. Regardless of acceptance, less than half of LGBTQ Latin@ youth feel like they have an adult to turn to if they are sad or worried. If queer Latin@s were more present in the mainstream the general public would have more awareness about the needs of these young people and adults would be better prepared to help Latin@ youth confront issues that are specific to them. Family is extremely valuable in the Latino/a community and the love is there but the knowledge around LGBTQ Latin@s needs to expand.

Photo By Victoria Ramos

Photo By Victoria Ramos

LGBTQ Latin@s need their place in mainstream culture not only to improve their living conditions in their current communities, but also to expand the general knowledge of LGBTQ Latin@ issues. LGBTQ Latin@s are rarely the focus of LGBTQ and reproductive health advocacy, and almost never the focus of the general public. While LGBTQ Latin@s are fighting many of the same battles as other LGBTQ people, without focus or representation many issues specific to queer Latin@s go ignored. For instance immigration status has a huge effect on many Latin@s ability to access their reproductive rights and though immigration status may not seem to affect the entire queer community it must be addressed to serve the needs of a community as a whole. It is much more challenging for LGBTQ people to access all their healthcare needs than it is for heterosexual cisgender people. For LGBTQ immigrants, addressing all of their medical needs can be impossible. Currently, there is no way for a same-sex undocumented couple to be recognized at all. These are issues specific to queer Latin@ that cannot be ignored. Immigration reform is not something that can wait, it cannot be put to the side while other LGBTQ issues are dealt with in the spotlight.

The lack of queer Latin@s acknowledged by popular culture creates the illusion that these people do not exist. It denies Latin@ youth the role models they need and deserve. Having queer or Latina representation is not enough,  queer and Latina folks must be represented and acknowledged by the mainstream media. Both Latino/a communities and the general public need to gain greater awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ Latin@s. If we had more (or any) positive queer Latin@s represented in popular culture maybe people would stop trying to make Latin@s have to pick and choose which parts of their identity to accept. Maybe the minority of parents of Latin@ youth who are unsupportive would have someone to look to and help them come to terms with their child’s identity and maybe Latin@s would be targeted less often by people who are afraid of difference. To say Latin@s need to be represented by mainstream media is not entirely accurate. We don’t need a queer Latin@ star to validate our identities but we deserve our place in popular culture. We don’t need a famous Latin@ to prove that we exist because we’re certainly here and we’re not going anywhere. The mainstream needs Latin@ representation because we’re not getting any less queer or any less Latina and everybody needs to get used to it. With or without a celebrity advocating for us we are entitled to our identities. We are here and there will be more of us. We’re also fabulous and anyone turning a blind eye to us is seriously missing out.

The Social Justice Sexuality Project

http://www.slideshare.net/socialjusticesexuality/lgbt-latinos-in-the-social-justice-sexuality-project-vs-us-latinaos

Latino Youth Report

http://www.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/LatinoYouthReport-FINAL.pdf

Images were found on Vanessa Ramos’ WordPress, Follow Her Here:http://varphoto.wordpress.com/author/luxvideri/

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Activists across the country are making sure that their voices, and their stories, are being heard. We refuse to stay silent. A perfect example of strength, courage and determination is Samaria Johnson. She’s an organizer at the Alabama Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Justice, which was created out of our Southern Regional Latinas Organizing for Leadership and Advocacy Training. Her dedication to reproductive justice and the empowerment of Alabamians has made her the activist of the month.

Read her story here:

I’ve always gotten a bit of a thrill for bad girls. Whatever their faults, they stepped out of bounds and made their own decisions. The drive to support women and challenge misogynistic, patriarchal institutions and attitudes was jumpstarted early in my life, inspired by the bad girls of history and legend. In daily Bible study at my Christian elementary schools I questioned the assumptions that Eve’s forbidden fruit consumption was fundamentally morally wrong, and in college considered the social structures that condemned Helen for not conforming to traditional feminine roles and behaviors. These women and others took initiative – to encourage their own education and intelligence, to freely express their sexuality without guilt or hesitation, to control where they ended up in life and how.

Amanda Reyes and Samaria Johnson

Amanda Reyes and Samaria Johnson


I was raised and surrounded by generous, strong, complicated women at home, my mom and grandmothers and aunts. Most of my cousins are women. All of my closest friends are women. I grew up in a world of women, reading about them and looking up to them and learning from them. I have spent my entire life loving and being loved by women. There was never any question about my life’s purpose, once I realized it. My own strength has come from generations of women nurturing and fighting for each other. It continues to grow by relentlessly doing the same.

Over the past year I’ve become especially active in the pro-woman community. As a student at the University of Alabama, where I study history and am on track to graduate in Spring 2015, I joined the newly-formed Alabama Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Justice. I’ve organized

Samaria Johnson

Samaria Johnson

volunteering, collected signatures for sex education laws, attended potlucks to network with fellow student progressives, hosted documentary screenings. I serve as an escort at the local Tuscaloosa clinic and, standing outside the clinic in front of anti-choice protestors, have incredible leverage to explore and confront anti-woman attitudes. Being on the ground is incredibly important to me. It’s easy to get trapped in an ivory tower, and forget the nitty-gritty of actual people and the very real reasons why I’ve chosen the work that I do. At last March’s National Advocacy Weekend, I was able to connect with people whose experiences with society’s ubiquitous misogyny, heterosexism, and racism absolutely horrified me. At the same time, their stories reinforced my personal convictions. That horror was necessary in reminding me of why I work.

This summer I’m interning at the Feminist Majority Foundation in Arlington, Virginia. I’m working on a few different projects, including creating a sexual assault toolkit for universities and colleges. I’ve taken on as president of AASRJ at the University. For the next year, my fellow officers have adopted “sex positivity” as our theme. With that in mind we’ll be spotlighting black and queer intersections in sexual and reproductive justice, focus on religious outreach, and educating other students about safe expressions of sexuality and relationships. These kinds of opportunities are what dreams are made of. Thanks to the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, FMF, and a number of other organizations and fellow activists, as well as the ladies in my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to have them and the strength of conviction to take advantage of them!

Samaria Johnson

Samaria Johnson

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By: Eduardo Martinez

Lucha, a social justice student activist group, hosted a screening of Entre Nos on Columbia University’s campus in New York on a Thursday evening. luchaWe had a group of about fifteen students comprising a variety of ethnic, racial, and gender identities watch the film and then discuss the issues it raised. We began the discussion by sharing a scene that stood out from the film and why; one common theme across the different choices was the solidarity expressed with Mariana. Members of the audience reflected on how this solidarity was crucial in her experience of homelessness, unemployment, and of having an abortion, even when abandoned by her partner and struggling with her religion. The film demonstrated how solidarity between people in working class communities of color is developed and sustained as a necessity.

One important point that came out of the discussion of this theme emerged from a comment by one individual that the support Mariana received in her decision to have an abortion and to make money by collecting cans showed that differences in gender, ethnicity, and class do not matter as long as we have solidarity. However, other members of the audience jumped in to explain how shared struggles between different individuals and communities lead to bonds of solidarity while still acknowledging the importance of different identities. Mariana was in these particular circumstances partially because of her social position as a woman, as a recent immigrant, etc. and we need not erase these identities to support one another. It was very exciting to see this level of awareness and analysis emerge from a discussion on our campus where many students fail to understand these kinds of discussions as a result of their privileged social position.luchabanner2

It seemed that our entire audience already held progressive views with regards to reproductive justice, so our discussion of Mariana’s abortion turned towards the institutional and economic factors affecting her experience and alternative outcomes. As a recent immigrant without employment, Mariana had neither the security nor the income to have an abortion under the supervision of a healthcare professional. However, she would have faced further economic, social, and economic hardship had she not received the help from her neighbor, as some women do not have access to reproductive health information or resources. Our audience members also pointed out that the particular life outcomes for Gabriel and Andrea are not necessarily common and are not necessary to speak of “success.”

We discussed many other ideas raised by the film, but I think the examples here demonstrate how our audience was very receptive to the possible message(s) of the film. We were very encouraged by everyone’s excitement to discuss these topics and work through how we should and often do support one another in our different communities. We hope that this screening will serve as a catalyst for similar discussions in the future so that we can gain a better understanding of how to support one another, especially through difficult experiences like those depicted in Entre Nos.

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By: Desiree CaroImage

May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.  Groups could use this opportunity to educate our youth about sexual health by providing information about and promoting safer sex.  Instead, the Candie’s Foundation has decided to release an ad campaign that shames teen mothers and devalues motherhood.  These ads, which stigmatize mothers of all ages, are endorsed by various celebrities who seem to be clueless about the message they are sending to mothers across the globe.

One of the more appalling ads states: “You’re supposed to be changing the world…not changing diapers.”  Since when did changing the world and changing diapers become mutually exclusive?  Plenty of women of all ages have changed the world and changed diapers. Just take a look at some of the amazing young mothers that work with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), such as Leydi and Gloria, who are powerful women and young mothers. The young mothers highlighted here will provide you with plenty of examples of young women standing up for their rights as young moms and working to make a collective change.

It’s important to think critically about the purpose of these ads.  Are these ads really going to keep anyone, especially teenagers, from having sex? Likewise, are they teaching anyone how to have safer sex?  It’s quite clear that these ads humiliate and stigmatize teen parents without offering the ideas, information, or resources needed to actually prevent teen pregnancies. 

Shaming our youth into a state of fear and hate for teen parents is not an effective way to prevent unplanned teen pregnancies.  Instead, we should focus on providing access to information and resources; we should ensure that all teenagers have access to comprehensive sex education programs.  Radical idea, I know. Groups such as the Candie’s Foundation and the New York City government are so quick to use shaming tactics to attack young parents, and yet, emergency contraception and comprehensive sex education are still inaccessible for so many teenagers.   We need to look at unplanned teen pregnancy as a societal issue.  To prevent unplanned teen pregnancies, we need to address the broader educational, economic, and health disparities that contribute to these outcomes.

               So, what can we do to prevent ads like this from popping up again while still addressing the issue of teen pregnancy in this country?  First, sign this petition that requests a meeting with the founder of the Candie’s Foundation to discuss the harmful impact of their campaign and offer suggestions to improve their approach by increasing comprehensive sexual education, putting a halt on shaming tactics, and using messaging that supports and empowers all young people to make the best decisions for them.  Then, educate yourself about these issues. The internet is full of great resources such as Sex Etc., Planned Parenthood, and Advocates for Youth that can help answer any sex-related questions. Lastly, join NLIRH’s counter-campaign and help us show the Candie’s Foundation that their ads are not the right way to prevent teen pregnancies.  Use the hashtag #NoTeenShame on Twitter and Facebook to let the Candie’s Foundation hear what you have to say.  Let’s break the cycle of shaming young parents and start supporting them.

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Originally posted on Feministing- http://feministing.com/2013/05/16/will-the-teen-mom-shaming-ever-stop/

By VERÓNICA BAYETTI FLORES | Published: MAY 16, 2013

May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, which basically means it’s the season for teen mom shaming. And damn if the Candie’s Foundation doesn’t deliver! On May 1 they revealed their new celebrity-endorsed PSAs, which include lots of messages that provide the super useful combo of shame and no actual helpful information whatsoever. I want to throw up all over these:
 
Hilary Duff with a caption saying: "You think being in school sucks? You know what sucks a whole lot more? A baby - almost every 2 hours for feeding time. And breastfeeding isn't always easy, so if you choose to use formula, you're looking at about $1,500 a year. Guess school doesn't suck that bad huh?"
 
Did you know being a mother totally sucks??? What’s interesting to me about that one is that it’s actually not specific to young people at all – infants have to eat every couple hours regardless of how old their mother is. Does the Candie’s foundation think that motherhood just sucks in general?
 
And OMG, this one:
 
candies psa hayden

A lot of these ads include the stuff about the cost of raising a child, which once again, is not particular to the age of the mother. What gets to me about these are the class implications of this kind of approach – i.e. if you don’t have this kind of money, then you have no place being a mother. Sure, young folks likely have less independent sources of income, but we can’t decontextualize this from the class status of their families, and thus their access to financial support. Economic arguments like this one serve to reinforce racist, eugenicist notions that poor folks are unfit to parent.

But the maybe worst one, the one that gets the most under my skin, is this one:
 
 
 
Picture of Carly Rae Jepsen w caption: "You're supposed to be changing the world...not changing diapers."

This one makes me wanna flip tables and take off my earrings because I am ready to step. There is so much wrong here, but let’s start with the idea that mothers can’t change the world. WHAT! Yep, too busy changing diapers, you can’t possibly use that little brain of yours for anything else amiright? The sheer absurdity (and, oh yeah, sexism) of that notion is really beyond comprehension. Was nobody involved in this ad campaign a mother? But we know this ad is targeted at youth, and perhaps the idea is that YOUNG mothers can’t possibly create change. Of course, this is no less ridiculous – young mamas are resisting shameful messageshitting up their  representatives in DC to demand the support they need to raise their families, fighting for paid sick time and the right to stay in school. Young mamas are making it happen y’all! They’re changing diapers and cooking dinner and organizing the protest, they’re securing childcare and figuring out how to make ends meet, and that survival is resistance in the face of bullshit like this ad campaign.

How about some real solutions? How about increasing access to contraception and abortion for young women who don’t want to become parents but can’t afford these options? How about acknowledging that these even exist and are safe and effective? How about working toward a world in which young parents have the support they and their children need to thrive? We need less shaming and more expansion of health care access, less useless PSAs and more support for young parents to stay and do well in school. This isn’t a new concept – communities of color have been calling this out for years. It’s obvious that these initiatives serve only to add stigma and do nothing to address the material conditions that actually affect young families and the poor outcomes that they can face: access to things like education, affordable health care, childcare, housing.

No one has any business telling people when or how it is appropriate to start their families. Reproductive justice at its core is about bodily autonomy, supporting people’s reproductive decision-making, and making sure that folks can raise the kids that they have with dignity. We cannot meaningfully stand for these values and shame young moms at the same time.

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By: Margie Del Castillo

This was my first experience at NLIRH’s National Advocacy Weekend (NAW), but not my first time gathering with fellow NLIRH activists.  My introduction to the Latina Institute happened in the Summer of 2012, when I attended the Southeastern LOLA regional training in Charlotte, NC.  There, I was introduced to the concept of being an activist within and for a specific community, and not only on a single issue.

SoLOLA 006

It was also there that I met Nancy Diaz and Rocio Rodarte, my fellow co-founders of DC, Maryland, Virginia-Latinas Organizing for Leadership and Advocacy (DMV-LOLA).  And once again, the three of us gathered for NAW, excited to represent DMV-LOLA and get to know our counterparts from all across the country.  As a group, we felt that the weekend afforded us so many new opportunities.  We learned about different organizing tactics using social media, like how to reach our community through Twitter and tips on producing videos with our smartphones.  We got updated on the current state of immigration reform from experts from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the National Immigration Law Center, to name a few.  We were inspired by NLIRH Board Member Laura Esquivel’s stories about her childhood and all the success she has earned throughout her life.  We really enjoyed the Camino Media Academy and even got to see ourselves being interviewed on camera.

One of our most memorable moments was meeting fellow poderosa Lucy Felix, the Texas LAN coordinator.  Lucy conducted a presentation on community organizing and, more specifically, how to build a base within your community.  Since I’ve been involved with NLIRH, I have heard many great stories about Lucy, so it was awesome to finally have the chance to meet her in person.  We, as DMV-LOLA, were also excited to talk to her and see what tips she could give us on building our base here in the DMV area.

We learned a lot from her over the weekend and the best part was, she was eager to continue our discussions after NAW was over.  For DMV-LOLA, this means a lot, as we can count on Lucy, and the Texas LAN in general, for support and coalition building. We can share our organizing skills and continue to learn from each other as time goes by, and from the other wonderful poderosas and organizations that we met that weekend.  That is, truly, poder.

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By: Gina Millan

Haber participado en el Fin de Semana de Abogacía fue una experiencia increíble, el convivir con mujeres tan fuertes y valientes me inspira aún más a seguir luchando por la justicia y los derechos reproductivos de las mujeres.

Mi experiencia como mujer inmigrante latina y madre soltera, me ha dado el valor y el coraje para trabajar a favor de los derechos de las mujeres; es muy difícil trabajar tiempo completo, cuidar de una hija, no tener a nadie que te apoye y encima no poder ir al doctor no siquiera para un examen anual porque no te alcanza el dinero es realmente frustrante.

 gina from color

Tener que decidir entre pagar casi un mes de comida o ir a la clínica para un examen ginecológico, un examen de mama, conseguir algún anticonceptivo, y mejor ni hablamos de querer interrumpir un embarazo porque hay sí que no comeríamos casi un año!!!

Bajo este clima político tan anti-inmigrante, anti-latino y anti-derechos de la mujer, los políticos deberían de cambiar sus posturas “CONSERVADORAS” y dejar que cada mujer tome sus propias decisiones y entender de una vez por todas

“QUE MI CUERPO ES MI DECISIÓN”.

 

Gracias Latina Institute por su magnífico trabajo

 

Gina Millan

Colorado Organization For Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR)

 

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By Johnna Dominguez

My story is not a dramatic one. I am Latina. But I am third-generation with light skin and hair. Some would say I “pass” and so I’ve never really had to worry about racist discrimination based on looks alone. I also grew up with economic privilege. So it might be safe to say that I grew up with a form of white privilege.

But I didn’t even see this myself until my experience during the National Advocacy Weekend. I grew up with an open-minded family, so I always thought myself to be a champion for the weak, the underprivileged, the downtrodden…whoever needed a cheerleader, I could do it! Now I realize how little waving my intellectual pom-poms actually does. Those affected by social injustice don’t need a cheerleader. That role allows someone like myself to become too complacent. No, those affected by social injustice need solidarity and people who will stand up and fight alongside them.

Latina_Institute 29

This was never as obvious as it was after my first lobby visit with a legislator. On March 18th, I was paired with another person from Alabama and an immigrant woman from Nicaragua to speak to senators from Alabama and Florida. After the first meeting, the immigrant woman Aida eloquently said: “I feel freedom.” She continued by explaining that, in Nicaragua, speaking directly to a politician would have been impossible. She felt, in that moment, that her voice had power.

After the next meeting, where she asked the most hostile office of the day some tough questions and said goodbye with a pointed reminder to remember immigrants, she had something even more powerful to say. “The sacrifices that I’ve made are now paid off, by sharing my story and having people listen.” She had come to this country under amnesty (which, by the way, one of the Alabama senators noted he was against) and worked her ass off to make sure her children could have the things she never could in her home country. Aida has earned so many things since then, including a Masters degree. But it was this day, full of personal story telling and respectful (well, mostly respectful) listening, that made her feel the most accomplished.

AL and FL

Many of the other people I met this weekend felt the same way. They all had amazing stories, and yet many people—in our communities, in our states, in our country—want to silence their voices. Many of the people I met this weekend, whether documented or undocumented, were hard-working, productive members of society. They believe in the same American ideals of life, justice, equality. So don’t they deserve the same respect and rights as any other American who takes these things for granted? I admit, I was one who took these things for granted, at the same time that I was calling myself a “champion”.

But I’m not a cheerleader anymore. I’m an activist.

I’ve come to realize that I do have a story. Instead of a theme centered on immigrant justice, my story is firmly placed in the problems of sexual education, body image, and control of female bodies. No matter the context, I will not be complacent in my privileges any longer. I look forward to forming, and then sharing, my story in the next few days, weeks, months, and years. And I look forward to listening to and fighting alongside those around me. After all, soy poderosa y voy a seguir adelante.

Latina_Institute 64

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DACAfbpic2espDACAfbpic2This blog post has been cross-posted at the blog of MomsRising.org here.

On June 15, 2012, the Obama Administration announced a new policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that allows undocumented youth who meet specific requirements to apply for a two-year protection from deportation and for work authorization. When the policy was announced, advocates for immigrant women, including the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), joined the immigrant rights communities to celebrate the decision, while recognizing that changes in immigration policy that promote fairness, justice, and opportunity also advance reproductive justice and for immigrant Latinas, their families, and their communities.

Unfortunately, in late August, just after United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began receiving applications for DACA, the Administration announced two changes to existing federal policy that effectively strip access to health care for young DREAMers authorized to reside and work in this country.

Prior to the policy changes, those granted DACA would have the same access to health care as others granted deferred action, a pre-existing designation that granted temporary relief from deportation to other immigrants. Under the changes made in late August, DACA youth who are denied health care coverage due to a pre-existing condition (which for women could be a previous C-section, or domestic violence, for example) will no longer be able to purchase a plan in the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Program (PCIP) created by the health reform law or Affordable Care Act (ACA). DACA youth are similarly prohibited from purchasing a health plan in insurance exchanges that will be available in 2014, and are ineligible to apply for federal assistance in purchasing a plan. And according to federal guidance issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), pregnant women and youth under 21 with DACA status are barred from health coverage in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), unless that state has a separate, state-funded program.

The decision has far-reaching implications for immigrant women’s access to quality, affordable health care, including reproductive health care. The decision undermines the goals of the ACA expanding access to health insurance, reducing racial and ethnic health disparities, and lowering health care costs by prioritizing prevention and insuring the previously uninsured. The policies are particularly harmful for immigrant women as they:

  • Further entrench long-standing barriers to health care for immigrant women. Current immigration laws deny a path to citizenship for immigrants found to utilize public benefits, including health care.  On top of this, Congress has, in the past three decade, created new restrictions on immigrant women’s access to health care and other public benefits, in the forms of 5-year (or other multi-year) bars on eligibility for public insurance, documentation requirements, and other barriers. These policies, in addition to undermining immigrant integration and the health and economic security of our immigrant families and communities, create a “chilling effect,” and discourage immigrant utilization of safety net services they are eligible for.  These policies disproportionately impact women, who are more likely to receive safety net services for their children;
  • Undermine the safety net, which is critical to immigrant women and communities. Immigrant women are far less likely than U.S. born women to have access to employer-sponsored coverage and private health insurance generally. Immigrant women are overrepresented in low-wage sectors that simultaneously fail to provide employer-sponsored coverage, while also exposing workers to strenuous and dangerous work. Nearly two-thirds of noncitizen Latina workers (66%) are not covered by employment-based health care, and this contributes to high uninsurance rates for Latinas overall (37.3% of Latinas are uninsured for health care.) This is also true of the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community, where lack of employer-sponsored coverage contributes to the fact that 18.2% of API women live without health insurance;
  • Leave very few options for immigrant women to receive contraception, cervical cancer screenings, prenatal care and other important health care. Due to these policies, immigrant women granted DACA may only be able to access care through already-stressed safety net providers and state-funded programs. For pregnant immigrant women, Emergency Medicaid, which covers important labor and delivery services but does not cover prenatal care, may be the only available coverage for reproductive health care. In about 15 states, immigrant women may have access to reproductive health care under the “unborn child” option in CHIP, which utilizes the troubling fetal personhood frame to provide health care for a woman’s pregnancy, but not to the woman herself

The restrictions on access to health care for those granted DACA will hurt women, who face a number of oppressions and injustices due to their gender, national origin and race, and immigration status. That is why advocates for immigrant women are calling on President Obama to affirm his commitment to the principles of the ACA, and to advance the health of our immigrant families and communities.

On December 18, International Migrant’s Day, advocates and communities across the country will call the White House to demand restored access to health care for DREAMers granted DACA. We hope you will contribute your voice to the effort to restore access to health care for our young DREAMers, so as to promote health, dignity, and justice for immigrant women, their families, and their communities.

For more information, please visit the website of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health at http://www.latinainstitute.org/daca.

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