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Posts Tagged ‘abortion’

Each April public health and civil rights advocates work to raise awareness about the health inequities that continue to impact communities of color in the U.S. Among the health conditions that are usually highlighted are diabetes, HIV/AIDS, certain cancers, mental illness, and obesity. While it’s certainly critical to address the high rates of these conditions in our communities, another persistent minority health issue is often overlooked.

Women of color (WOC) consistently face reproductive health injustices that are rarely discussed in the context of a minority health issue. This topic is usually relegated to the WOC realm of women’s health. But this April, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) is shifting the dialogue about minority health and highlighting the lack of access to safe, legal, and affordable abortion as a very real health crisis for many of our herman@s.

In 1973, the Supreme Court passed the landmark Roe. v. Wade decision, granting women the right to safe and legal abortion. While this was a major victory for the women’s rights movement, the fight for abortion rights did not stop then. In fact, over the years, the right to abortion has been consistently attacked, restricted, and limited at both the state and federal level.

Among the most harmful of the restrictions enacted was the implementation of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion services. Rep. Henry Hyde, author of the Hyde Amendment, said of his intentions for the rider: “I would certainly like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion: a rich woman, a middle class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the [Medicaid] bill.”  This rider has been renewed each year for over three decades, and currently, federal funds can only be used in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment.

The Hyde Amendment was crafted as a deliberate attack on low-income women’s reproductive freedom. Considering that women of color are more likely to be low-income – 24 percent of Latin@s, 27 percent of black women, and 18 percent of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders live below the poverty level – the Hyde Amendment is essentially an attack on women of color’s reproductive rights, by denying them the ability to access affordable abortion. The denial of affordable healthcare that covers abortion is yet another issue on the long list of ways and means used to undermine the bodily autonomy and reproduction of WOC in the U.S.

As a result of the Hyde Amendment, abortion has remained out of reach for many low-income or uninsured women despite it being legalized in 1973. For many of our Latina herman@s, access to affordable abortion has never been an option because they are low-income, uninsured, or don’t have private insurance that covers abortion. The reality is, one in three Latin@s is uninsured, which is higher than other race/ethnic group in the country. Of those that are insured, many rely on federally funded programs for coverage, which don’t cover abortion. Without the ability to afford it, the right to abortion is meaningless.

In fact, the first woman who died as a direct result of the Hyde Amendment was a Latina. Rosie Jiménez was a Latina college student and single mother who had Medicaid coverage. Since the Hyde Amendment had recently eliminated federal Medicaid funding for abortion, Rosie resorted to unsafe abortion because she didn’t have the means to pay for the service out of pocket. She died one week after her abortion in October 1977 due to complications from an unsafe procedure. Harrowing as it is, Rosie’s story is not unique. Each year tens of thousands of people are denied access to affordable abortion because of the Hyde Amendment. Although not every person’s story ends tragically, many people’s lives are greatly impacted by the financial burden of paying for an abortion or having to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.

For Latin@ immigrants, access to affordable abortion can be even more difficult due to many factors including, high rates of uninsurance, cultural and linguistic barriers, lack of information about abortion in the U.S., immigration status, and poverty.

It’s undeniable: the Hyde Amendment hurts women. Moreover, the Hyde Amendment hurts WOC, who are disproportionately low-income, making this not only a women’s health issue, but a minority health issue as well. This National Minority Health Month let’s raise awareness of all health inequities, including the ability to access to safe and affordable abortion.

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A few days ago my sister told me she didn’t really like her curly hair. I stared at this little replica of me. It felt like I was looking into a mirror. Little me also didn’t like her curly hair. All the pretty girls have straight hair. I saw all the wrong things staring back at me in the mirror.

For days, I thought about the conversation her and I had. How can I create a space in which my sister and I feel happy and empowered with who we are? What things can I do, say and have that will make her feel secure in herself, both on the outside and inside? Where beauty isn’t the only focus? What do little ones need to feel at peace and in control of their future and their bodies when everything around them tells them they’re worthless?

I thought about the ways in which we sometimes don’t support the decisions those around us make. How inferior we make each other feel. How we judge one on another for the things we do or don’t do. As if there was a “normal” or “correct” way to be. As if there was a specific way to live our lives.

Here in New York I can’t walk down the street without seeing ads that say young mothers, and their families, will grow up and amount to nothing. Messages that tell us, “You’re worthless and deserve what is happening to you because you did things the “wrong way””. Messages that tell the little ones what horrible lives they will live and what horrible parents they have.

Pointless messages because no matter what decision we make, we seem to always lose and are belittled because of them. Sex is bad. Abortion is bad. Parenting at your age is bad. Using contraceptives is bad. Everything is bad. Our existence is bad. All decisions we make will be judged.

But, guess what, we’re not going anywhere.

On the other hand, I hope to work with warriors that will take matters into their own hands. Warriors that will be happy with who they are. Warriors that will be at peace with the decisions they make for themselves and their families. Warriors that will look into the mirror and not let these messages affect what they believe to be true about themselves. At least, that’s where I hope to be alongside my family and people in my community. I hope to live and create spaces in which decisions, including abortion and parenting, are respected and supported. Spaces in which my sister can feel confident in herself and understand that there’s more to life and herself than just beauty.



Spaces like that are being built. We are hosting a webinar training with 3 sessions aimed to serve young mothers. This training is open to all young mothers and are completely free. Session 1 already took place. Session 2 is happening on Nov 15 6pm EST which will talk about why it is important to organize young mothers and why young motherhood happens. Session 3 is happening on Dec 13 also at 6pm EST and it takes a closer look on what advocacy means and how you can use your experiences to push others into action. If you’re a young mother, register and let others know: http://tinyurl.com/MomELola

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We were on the phone talking about the immigrant rights movement and how he could get involved. He was telling me how he values immigrants so much and believes everyone deserves a happy and safe life. He then asks about my beliefs and what I stand for.

I tell him about my involvement with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.
“Reproductive health? Like abortions?” He asks.
“That’s not the only aspect of reproductive health but yeah, abortions too.”

He becomes angry and states that I’m a horrible person for advocating for abortion access. How could I fight for immigrant rights and at the same time, aim to provide others with abortions? It’s a disappointing and a very sad aspect of my life, according to him. He didn’t stop at that but kept pushing and pushing, “So, you’re telling me, if you were to get pregnant tomorrow, you’d have an abortion?”

One side of me believes I should stay quiet since it really isn’t his business what I do or don’t do with my body. The other side of me however, didn’t want to be ashamed of the decisions I make. So I proudly state, “if I need one, yes I would.”

Abortion Mississippi

Silence.

He said something about me being a bad person, that he believes whole-heartily in the bible and that he had to go so it was best to hang up.

Click.

I sit there shocked at his eagerness to hang up on me but also amused and how the conversation had made a 180 degree turn because of what I believe in. It’s okay to advocate for the lives of immigrants, but not for the lives of women and men who need an abortion. But there’s a discussion that’s missing, the one about life going on beyond the 9 month gestation period.

It’s frustrating after a while, hearing folks discuss the value of lives and the importance of community, but only for a fetus. What happens to that life once it’s outside the body? What happens when the family cannot afford food or health services? They’re called a leech on the system. What happens when that life is LGBTQ? They’re excluded and dehumanized. When it becomes undocumented? That life is no longer considered valuable. We would rather detain and deport it. When that same life is walking home from the store we shoot and kill it for wearing a hoodie and “looking suspicious”. When it’s Muslim? We bomb them. Black and brown lives? Incarcerate them.

Don’t you dare sit there and talk to me about the value of life when our children cannot even access a decent education, housing, comprehensive sex education or contraceptives. This isn’t a black or white issue where some are against abortion and some are for it. Abortions should be made available to whomever needs it and it’s not up to us to judge those who have one. At the same time, we should be working together to create better living conditions for all so that maybe, in the future, that one abortion won’t be necessary.

I’m also fighting for lives.

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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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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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By: Dian Alarcon

Mil gracias por todo el apoyo y enseñanzas en esta semana de abogacía. Realmente fue una experiencia enriquecedora. No importa cuántas veces la hagas siempre es una experiencia nueva que te enseña el poder que tiene tu voz. Aunque solo seas uno, es como el cardumen de peces, si esta solo es más fácil que un depredador se lo pueda comer pero cuando está acompañado por miles o cientos de peces, los depredadores piensan que eres un animal demasiado grande y poderoso para atacarlo y desisten de comerlos.
Latina_Institute 231
Para mí la mayor reflexión esta semana es que cuando trabajamos ordenadamente en equipo, con pasión y todas con el mismo enfoque logramos llevar nuestro mensaje de Salud, Dignidad y Justicia más allá de nuestras fronteras.

NLIRH hizo un ejemplo de trabajo en equipo, muy ordenadas y cada una sabiendo cual era su roll en esta semana. Soy muy observadora y de todo me gusta aprender así que de cada instante que pasamos tantas mujeres poderosas juntas aprendí algo. Cada una tiene sus talentos y hay que saber descubrirlos y ponerlos a trabajar a favor de nuestras metas.

De los medíos de comunicación aprendí el gran poder que tiene y que es importante aprender a manipularlos para nuestra conveniencia. Aprendí que también tenemos que cuidar nuestro mensaje para que no lo editen en nuestra contra.

Trabajar en equipo con todas las organizaciones nos hace más fuertes.

Un Abrazo para tod@s y gracias por todos sus cuidados.


More reflections of our 2013 National Advocacy Weekend

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We mobilized over 50 activists from all around the country for our 2013 National Advocacy Weekend which took place from March 15-March 19 in Washington DC. Below is a video that highlights our experiences at NAW 2013.

Here is a reflection from one of the NAW participants:

I’m Christina from Boston, Massachusetts. I want to start off and say Thank You to everyone at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health for giving me the opportunity to attend the 2013 National Advocacy Weekend for the first time. Thank you for allowing me to have a first-hand account on what real lobbying is like.

Prior to lobbying on March 18, 2013 for Immigrant Women’s Healthcare, Immigration Reform and Affordable Abortion Access, I had only participated in drop off visits. I never fully experienced lobbying for a cause that is dear to me. I felt very excited to be there, even if at times my energy was a bit off. I want to thank everyone in the Massachusetts and New York lobbying group as well. They helped me speak to the Senators and helped me feel less nervous.

Photo taken by Selena Torrado

Photo taken by Selena Torrado


The rally prior to lobbying impacted me too. I’ve been to a march, but not a rally. I loved the way all the organizations fighting for immigrant women’s healthcare access and equal rights were helping each other.

During National Advocacy Weekend, I got to meet so many passionate and strong men and women from across the country who are fighting for reproductive rights, immigrant rights and LGBTQ’s rights. I was the only person from Massachusetts and the Texas group took me under their wing. I’m very grateful for being in an environment which taught me that I can do things even if it takes time.

During National Advocacy Weekend, Laura Esquivel, NLIRH board member, shared her story with us. It hit close to home. She spoke about attending community college and that there were people along the way to help her finish.

The Camino Media Academy, where we participated in mock interviews helped me get a taste of how the media works and how to deliver my message better. I also remember the Intercultural Productions workshop that taught me that you can create your own film via a smart phone. Lucy Felix’s presentation on how to start a group in your state helped a lot. Even though it was in Spanish, I could understand it and translate it. I loved the wall of victory we created as a community.

Wall of Victory at NAW

The victory I shared was that I’m learning how to balance health with my other responsibilities. I have been going back and forth on how to balance my Celiac Disease with my passion for reproductive rights for a while. But, now I know that I can combine both when it comes to the food and environmental injustice we face. All women regardless of income, disability, age, race, gender, orientation, religion, should be able to have good quality food and a holistic nutrition. We should all be able to control our bodies, minds, and spirits.

Again, I want to thank you to everyone and of course to NLIRH for allowing me to be part of my first NAW weekend :)!


Si Se Puede!

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