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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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Latinas are taking over! Both online and specifically in Florida. There are two very awesome trainings available right now. Check both out, see if you’re eligible and register. Make sure to help us spread the word!

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THIS IS A CALL TO ALL YOUNG MOTHERS
check out this awesome community mobilizing and advocacy webinar training! Completely accessible from home if you have a phone and computer with internet access. We believe in supporting young mothers and providing them with the tools to be leaders in their community.
Register here: http://tinyurl.com/MomELola

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MIAMI, FLORIDA ACTIVISTS!
Our LOLA Training is coming to you! From October 18th-20th. Register for our three day Latin@s Organizing for Leadership and Advocacy training to receive the tools necessary to be a leader in your community. We will be covering your stay and travel.
Spread the word and register here: http://tinyurl.com/LOLAFL

If you have any questions please email Angy@LatinaInstitute.org or call us at 212-422-2553

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When I first starting working with young mothers I found myself trying to validate my ally-ness. If anyone asked me why I was involved, or if I had children of my own, instead of simply saying “no”, I would feel the need to defend my involvement.

I would often respond with:
“No I don’t have any children, but my mother was a young mother”
or
“No but I have many friends who are young parents”

I asked myself, “as an undocumented immigrant, what do I want from allies?” Then it hit me, I can be an ally without an explanation or defending my involvement. “I’m not a racist, my friend is black” isn’t cool so why would “I don’t have children but my friend is a young mom” be considered okay? I started reminding myself that I can be an ally, just because. I can be an ally because I believe in the importance of young mother’s voices being heard without tokenizing those around me. I can be an ally because our liberations are tied together. I can be an ally because no one is free, while others are oppressed.

Even though being an ally can be tricky. We should all be willing to learn and be called out. We are allies to each other. Here are some things I’ve learned throughout my involvement with young mothers:

1. It’s so much easier to sit back and judge young families. Young mothers already face a bunch of judgement everywhere. Don’t judge. Educate yourself.

don't judge

2. Always step back and look at the bigger picture. This isn’t about you, remember?

stepback

3. Families are different. Don’t assume every family is compiled of a mother, father and one child.

families

4. Always engage the children and think of their needs/wants.

hand paint

5. Be an ally just because. Don’t try to prove something to others or to yourself. Believing in the people you’re working with and the cause you’re working towards is sufficient.

Cow

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Guest Post by May Sifuentes, PPFA

Planned Parenthood’s Youth Team just concluded its Youth Organizing and Policy Conference in Washington, DC—a conference that was attended by close to 300 youth activists from around the nation and consisted of participation in a lobby day, strategic thinking and mapping, and building connections and a support system to make sure that our advocacy work for reproductive health and rights is moving forward. But for me, the conference was more than just a gathering of young leaders: it was a survey, a demonstration and vision of the resilience, the diversity, the passion, and immense action that is happening in spaces all over the United States—and is specifically being led by young people. Whether it’s raising public awareness about reproductive rights, or educating young people and their campuses and communities about sexual health, our youth work with and support their local Planned Parenthood organizations to mobilize advocates for reproductive freedom. In 2011, 76% of Planned Parenthood’s nearly 3 million patients were under 30 and 47% of patients were people of color. The issues affecting these communities then become our issues; we will work hard to make sure that everyone has access to affordable health care.

This is why the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 was so important—it will allow us to reduce the gap felt by our siblings of color, youth, LGBTQ, and other underserved communities when it comes to access to culturally sensitive, respectful and affordable health care. For young adults, the benefits of the ACA are immense—the ACA allows youth up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance plans. 3.1 million young adults have already gained insurance through this provision, and it is estimated that around 3 million more are eligible.  What’s even better is that there is a larger increase in insurance and eligibility rates for youth of color—who have historically had lower insurance rates in the U.S.

And when it comes to preventive health services, the Affordable Care Act requires most health insurance plans to cover prevention services—as my abuelita always said, better safe than sorry. From Pap tests and HIV screenings, to birth control without co-pays, preventive services that are covered by insurance plans will help people of color, Latinas especially, live healthier lives overall. Latinas have high rates of cervical cancer, and Latinos represent 20% of new HIV infections in the U.S. The Affordable Care Act gives us a great opportunity to work with our communities to affect change, and make sure that folks who are eligible to be insured are.

While youth activists at Planned Parenthood know the benefits that the Affordable Care Act can have in their communities—and are actively engaged to bring that information to their localities—we also know that health has no borders and that everyone deserves to live healthy lives. We are committed to continue working with our coalition partners to advocate for health care for all.

While there is no doubt that the Affordable Care Act brings great benefits to our communities, we know that we carry immense responsibility in its success. It is up to us, as part of this movement, to make sure that our siblings, our neighbors, and our communities know how the ACA can benefit them. When the open enrollment period for health insurance plans starts this October 1, our youth activists will make sure that they once again, unapologetically and with energy and compassion, are as prepared as always to reach their communities and advocate for their rights with them as one force.

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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.

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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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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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