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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.

Post by Valentina Forte-Hernandez

Texas legislatures are attempting to disguise their anti-abortion bill as a measure of protection for teenagers and children. They are acting as if restricting abortion, limiting contraceptive care and defunding sexual education will prevent teenagers from having sex. If teenagers do not know how to have safe sex, are unable to access contraception or abortion they will stop having sex, right? Wrong. Denying youth sex ed, contraception and abortion will only ensure that there will be more unsafe sex, more unplanned pregnancies and more women turning to dangerous abortion alternatives. Saying these restrictions are to protect young people is not only preposterous, it also ignores all the adult women who are also being harmed by a lack of access to reproductive care. The anti-abortion bill and the continuous cuts to reproductive health care services hurt all Texas women. Even if you do not need an abortion, even if you do not support abortion, if you are a woman in Texas you are being told that you are not entitled to make decisions about your own body.

It is a common misconception that reproductive health care exclusively refers to abortion and contraceptive services. Reproductive health care centers provide many services, not just ones that are directly related to sexual activity. Places like Planned Parenthood provide a variety of services like breast exams and other preventative treatments for breast cancer, ovarian cancer and a number of other illnesses that are not related to being sexually active. While many supporters of the anti-choice movement say that these services are available at other health centers, they are often unaffordable and inaccessible, especially to immigrant and undocumented women who are the people that will suffer the most if the bill becomes a law.
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Texas women are hurting themselves with dangerous, illegal abortion alternatives now. It is not a scary hypothetical that will happen with new restrictions, it is happening every day and will only become more frequent if access to contraception and abortion is further limited. Women without the means to afford safe, clinical contraceptive services are risking their lives by crossing the border to buy black market drugs to induce abortion. While these drugs are known to be dangerous, women who are struggling to support a family would rather risk their own lives than have a child they cannot afford to take care of. These high-risk alternatives are often unsuccessful and many women experience uncontrollable bleeding and end up in the emergency room. With less access to contraceptive services there will be more unplanned pregnancies. More unplanned pregnancies and less access to abortion means more women will be turning to dangerous alternatives. Anti-choice Texans are hurting women in the name of “protecting youth.” They are punishing women for being sexually independant and turning a blind eye to the real needs of their citizens.

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No matter how hard Texas legislators try to disguise their anti-women, anti-choice agenda I will not be fooled into believe their restrictions do a single thing to protect teenagers and children. If we want to protect teenagers, shouldn’t we be teaching them how to have safe sex to prevent the spread of disease and decrease the amount of unplanned, unwanted pregnancies? If we want to protect our children shouldn’t we keep our mother’s healthy and able to take care of the families they have? Shouldn’t we stop punishing women for not wanting to have a child they can’t afford to provide for? If you are claiming to be protecting youth, can you explain how this anti-choice legislation does a single thing to lower the rate of unemployment and homelessness amongst young people? What does it do to for the under resourced school system and millions children living in poverty? It does not do a single thing to improve the lives of young people in Texas, or to combat the real problems they are facing. This anti-abortion legislation gives nothing to Texas citizens and it takes away the reproductive rights of Texas women.

As a teenager girl, I say thanks but no thanks, Texas, for fighting (lying) in my name. I know you have convinced yourself that restricting my options will prevent me from having sex but it won’t, so it would be great if you would teach me how to make informed decisions about my body, not take away my ability to make these decisions at all. I would so greatly appreciate it if you considered a living, breathing woman of any age to be as valuable as a six week old fetus. If you really care about my safety it would be SUPER if you would start addressing my actual needs as an autonomous, teenage girl instead of serving your own, outdated ideology. If you really want to protect us young people, change what you are fighting for. Please stop using my safety as an excuse to restrict the reproductive rights of women of all ages. If you want to fight for my safety, if you want to protect women and teenagers listen to us. Stop trying to trick us into believing you know what’s best for us because you don’t.

“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.

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Post By Valentina Forte-Hernandez

   The attention that is being put towards immigration reform marks progress in the immigrant rights movement, but the bill that is currently being discussed in the senate is not ideal. While the bill would pave the way to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country, it would take 10 years for them to receive legal residency. It would take another 5 years for these immigrants to receive health care access, which means it would be 15 years until 11 million people would be able to access their basic human right to health care. Reading articles about the bill predicting that it is likely to pass is disheartening, but scrolling down and reading the comments people have written in response is straight up disturbing. There is clear opposition to the bill, however the opposition voiced through the comments comes from racist citizens of this country who don’t want immigrants to have access to health care ever.

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   In many of the comments it is clear that the term immigrant is exclusively associated with Latino. The majority of immigrants and undocumented folks in the U.S. are Latino, but it is simply incorrect to say that they are the only people immigrating to this country. It is even more upsetting to see what people responding to these articles think of Latino immigrants. Many of the commenters describe Latino as dirty, lazy and job stealers (see the irony here? If we’re so lazy how are we stealing jobs from these poor, “deserving” white people?) The people with these beliefs also oppose immigrant health care, but unlike myself and my peers they believe 15 years is too soon, not too late. These people say they don’t want their tax dollars going towards people who are not from this country, yet they are willing to spend big on hiring 20,000 new border agents. They are fine with spending money on immigrants, just as long as the money goes to keeping them out, not taking care of them once they are here. These comments demonstrate that there is extreme reluctance to acknowledge all of the positive things immigrants are doing for this country. It also bring attention to the longstanding fear some U.S. citizens have of a Latino majority.

       In 2006 Fox News’ John Gibson made a plea for more white babies. He said that half of children under five in this country are minorities and the majority of these children are Latino. To scare his viewers used a study that projected that in 25 years the majority of the population will be hispanic. He less than subtly told white people to start having more babies, suggesting that the desire for a prosperous and comfortable life was keeping white people from having children which makes me wants to roll my eyes and bang my head against the keyboard. Apparently us Latinos have no desire for comfortable or prosperous lives, we just want to make a ton babies to help us steal more jobs and overthrow the country. If it weren’t so damaging and disturbing, it would be almost funny that the people who are scared by John Gibson’s predictions are the same people who want to deny immigrants access to health care. Denying Latino immigrants access to healthcare means that Latinos will continue to have disproportionate access to contraception and other forms of reproductive health care.

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In my opinion all people of all races and all legal statuses are entitled to all health care because it is a basic human right. If you want to have ten kids, do it. If you don’t want any children don’t have any, use birth control, have an abortion, do whatever you want when making decisions about your family as long as it is not a coerced decision or one made because of a lack of access to resources. People like John Gibson and people who oppose immigrant health care like to believe that Latinos are intentionally having lots of babies because they want to take more of “our” jobs and take over this country, but that is not at all true.

Latino and immigrant communities are disproportionately affected by a lack of access to reproductive healthcare including contraceptives and abortions. This means these communities see more unintended pregnancies and ultimately have more children than those of us who do have access birth control. For undocumented folks in particular, getting birth control can be impossible. Undocumented people and other people without health insurance often wait until it is a medical emergency to seek out health care because they cannot afford to go to a doctor and they live in fear of being deported. Birth control is important, but for somebody who has to choose between seeing a doctor and putting food on their families’ table, contraceptive care is not considered a medical emergency. These are the people who are unable to access reproductive health care. They aren’t young, irresponsible people who don’t use contraceptives because they don’t care, they are mothers, they are people supporting families who can’t afford an appointment to the doctor, and often can’t even afford a ride to the doctor. They are hard workers who have to choose between the bare necessities of living and access to medical services that many of us consider essential and they are not the only ones. Underprivileged communities all across the country are having to make these difficult choices, and more often than not these decisions result in reproductive health care being pushed under the rug until a serious problem arises.

Another way one might try to suggest that Latinos are intentionally not using birth control is by saying something along the lines of, “the majority of the Latino population is Catholic and Catholics oppose birth control, right?” Well let me just shut that thought down with some good ole’ statistics. Regardless of religion 97% of Latinas who have ever had sex have used contraception. 96%of sexually active Catholic Latinas have used a contraceptive banned by the Vatican. The majority of all voting Latinas – 89%, to be precise – support contraceptive coverage without copayments for all women. Using religion as an excuse for Latinas’ disproportionate access to contraceptive care  distracts us from the system that is keeping Latinas from having access to all kind of reproductive healthcare (not just birth control). It also blames Latinas for exercising the religious freedom this country was founded on.

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Anyone who believes Latinos and immigrants are trying to take over this country is wrong. Yes, this country is growing more Latino every day but that is not the result of some evil scheme to take America away from white people, to believe that is just delusional. Latinos and immigrants are just trying to live healthy and prosperous lives like all the other people in this world. 15 years is too long for anyone to wait to see a doctor. If people are so concerned about spending money on immigrants, why not spend the money now on preventative care which is way more affordable than treating a serious illness. You are kidding yourself if you think there will be less immigrants just because you want it that way. By 2040 we will be the majority, so it’s time for everyone to realize that there will be more immigrants and there will be more Latinos. Wouldn’t it be better to ensure that every person living in this country is healthy and successful than to continue to weaken valuable members of our society just because you personally don’t like them? To have a strong and powerful country we need strength and support across the board. Anyone who believes immigrants are stealing their jobs should take a look at the system oppressing these immigrants and you might be surprised to find out that it is the same system that is keeping the poor and jobless poor and jobless and making sure the rich stay rich. If you want to be empowered, empower yourself, empower the people who work for their money, not those whose money works for them.

 

Statistics On Latinas and Contraceptives:

http://www.nclr.org/images/uploads/publications/NLIRH-Fact-Sheet-Latinas-and-Contraception-020912.pdf

 

John Gibson’s Call for more White Babies:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0af-RiRDoGk

http://mediamatters.org/mobile/research/2006/05/12/gibson-make-more-babies-because-in-twenty-five/135674


Our vegetables and fruits come with a side of rape and sexual abuse. That’s right. Rape.

Did you know that many of the farm workers who pick our fruits and vegetables are undocumented? It isn’t enough that they’re underpaid and exploited for their labor. Many are also raped and sexually assaulted while being threatened with being fired if they say something.

It is almost as if immigrant bodies have become public property. Property for many to use and misuse as they please. From not having access to health services, being deported and exploited to being raped.

The fear of deportation and of not being able to provide for their families forces immigrants to stay silent. But not anymore.

Frontline‘s latest documentary entitled, Rape in the Fields, follows a group of women who are raped and/or assaulted at work. The documentary also highlights the rape culture that dominates our society inside and outside of the fields. It is a heartbreaking film that will also make you angry. Angry at the injustice that happens right here in our fields and gets packaged with our food but no justice is served. Check out Rape in the Fields while it is still available online and spread the word.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/rape-in-the-fields/

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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