In the latest issue of Hispanic Magazine, journalist Betty Cortina dedicates an article to the “disturbing” rates of Latina teen pregnancy in the US entitled “A Growing Problem.” Although I applaud her for bringing this issue to the forefront of Hispanic Magazine’s readers, I can’t help but think her information was a little one-sided.
At the beginning of the article, Cortina ridicules her own family for being happy for her pregnant 15 year old cousin. She blames our culture for looking at an unwanted pregnancy as a blessing. Next, she goes on to cite a Texas school district as having one of the “most successful teen pregnancy programs” in the country. She believes that letting the young mothers stay in their original schools serves two purposes; one being that it allows them to finish school and graduate, and two it acts as a deterrent for the rest of the girls in the school.
Although I believe in programs that offer services like child care and transportation to help teen moms finish school, I don’t believe that the “scare tactic” is the best approach to reducing teen pregnancy. I was very disappointed to see that Cortina did not choose to highlight a school with a sexual and reproductive health education program instead.
The author continues by highlighting the Mary’s Center executive director, Maria Gomez. The Mary’s Center is known for providing essential reproductive health services to teen parents, but also many social services to thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Maryland area. Agreeing with Gomez, Cortina concludes by saying that the best solution to reducing teen pregnancy in our communities is to have more role models. She says that as successful Latinas, we “forget” that we have a responsibility to mentor those left behind.
Of course she doesn’t mention social conditions, the impact of economics, or even our political conditions. Once again, it’s our own fault. I’ve seen the work that organizations such as NLIRH and other reproductive justice organizations do on a day-to-day basis. To say that we have forgotten about our communities is completely false and misses the broader point: changing our community isn’t just about individual responsibility, it’s also about the broader society and how it impacts us.
By Krystal Chan, Development and Communications Intern
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Today, at the start of National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, we released Removing Stigma: Towards a Complete Understanding of Young Latinas’ Sexual Health, an up-to-date research analysis of young Latinas’ sexual health and the impact of current policies.
The research is clear: traditional teen pregnancy prevention campaigns that rely on stigma and shame simply don’t work. Latinas and their families need health resources that recognize their unique experiences.
Download the full report here and read the press release here.
The report will be available in spanish shortly.
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An article published online last week in the journal Pediatrics suggests that $13 billion and over 900 infants’ lives could be saved if 90% of infants were breastfed exclusively for six months.
According to the most recent recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfeeding is beneficial to the health of both the mother and child. It may decrease rates of ovarian and breast cancer among women and bone-related injuries and diseases. The AAP recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for six months, and non-exclusively breastfed for the first year and beyond as desired.
In this study, the authors undergo a cost analysis using data from previous studies. They calculated the approximate number of infants that are breastfed and the number that are not exclusively breastfed using data from a 2005 CDC survey. Then, they looked at a collection of diseases for which a lower risk has been reported for exclusively breastfed infants and the associated health costs for those diseases. The study did not look at every disease associated with breastfeeding, and in particular left out type 2 diabetes because of insufficient data. The overall conclusion shows that the US incurs billions of dollars in excess costs due to the
At the end of the day, breastfeeding is a lifestyle choice. However, given its health benefits, it should be a more accessible option for women who do prefer to breastfeed their children. Not every mother-child pair is capable of breastfeeding, but those that are should be able to do so without excessive inconvenience. Today, many women are unable to breastfeed their infants due to inadequate maternity leave, inability to take time off of work, and insufficient access to counseling about lactation. Additionally, healthcare providers often fail to inform women about the benefits of breastfeeding, and are unable to give women practical advice regarding breastfeeding.
Increasing support services for breastfeeding could save hundreds of lives and billions of dollars, which could be directed towards saving additional lives.
By Zarah Iqbal, Policy Intern
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The Governor of Utah, Gary Herbert has signed into law a bill that would charge a woman with criminal homicide if she knowingly carries out a self-abortion. In order analyze the impact this law will have on Latinas, particularly immigrant and low-income Latinas, let’s take a step back and review how this law, with its deep contempt for women on all levels, got passed in the first place.
Whereas many states have laws already in existence regarding fetal homicide, legislators in the state of Utah put forth a bill criminalizing “any act resulting from a woman who knowingly, recklessly, or intentionally causes a miscarriage”, in which the pregnant woman herself may spend 15 to life in prison. That bill was returned to legislators because although Gov. Herbert agreed with the goal of the bill, he “also believes very strongly that the state should not enact a law with unintended consequences.” Indeed, Marina Lowe, the of the Utah American Civil Liberties Union had advised Mr. Herbert to veto this bill due to the consequences that could arise. She said, “So many things can happen, and it’s all in the eye of the beholder – that’s what’s very dangerous about this legislation.” In other words, Herbert was concerned that if a woman had a miscarriage due to say, a fall on a patch of ice, there was the possibility that she would be criminally charged. The solution? The word “recklessly” was removed from the bill and on March 8 Gov. Herbert signed into a law a bill that allows homicide charges to be brought against women themselves for ending their own pregnancy.
We still need to bring light the dangers that this law, whose authors had creatively invented something called “criminal miscarriage,” still poses for many women. The bill proposed was a response to what happened about a year ago, where a 17 year old that did not want to carry her pregnancy to term paid a man $150 to beat her up, anticipating that the outcome would be a miscarriage. While I agree that these circumstances should not happen to any woman who does not want to carry her pregnancy to full term, this law makes no headway in preventing it. Even with a cursory understanding of this law, it is clear that it in no way addresses the reality of the situation- that women are not able get affordable, timely abortion services, particularly adolescents.
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Today I was able to attend a meeting of the secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, with City University of New York faculty and staff at Hunter College. At first I was disappointed that we were only going to discuss the HHS efforts to provide the H1N1 vaccine to all Americans, but as I learned more I understood that the nation’s response to pandemics like H1N1 is important for Latina reproductive health and wellbeing. (more…)
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Via CNN, comes the story of one residential treatment facility trying to provide services to pregnant and parenting mothers who struggle with substance abuse.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and SAMHSA’s health information network, compared to other racial groups, Latinos come in second for highest incidence of binge drinking and heavy alcohol use. Additionally, about 1 in 10 Latino youth has recently used illegal drugs. The effects of drug and alcohol abuse on our lives and health is massive. When pregnancy and parenting is also considered, the services needed to serve our community are even more difficult to find.
Serenity Place of South Carolina is one women’s treatment facility that tries to serve this community.
Serenity Place is a fairly new, 16 bed residential facility treatment program where women can bring up to two children with them and pregnant women battling substance abuse are also encouraged to enroll in services. While in the residential center, women learn a variety of new skills for parenting, in addition to techniques for coping with substance abuse. While the program says it can’t guarantee the success of every women who passes through its program, this type of holistic support is necessary to provide support to these women and their families. The program website states that private insurance and Medicaid are accepted and no one is denied services due to the inability to pay.
I think it is about time programs like this become accessible to ALL women regardless of situation, to ensure brighter futures for both them and their children. To read or hear more stories about the women currently in the program or those who have graduated, please read the article or watch the video here.
By Jennifer Leigh Velez, Policy Intern
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A Gallup survey commissioned by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recently reported that the rough economy is impacting women’s reproductive health in considerable ways. Decisions about when to become pregnant, how many children to have, what type of contraception method to use, and whether or not to attend their yearly well-woman exams are being influenced by the present dismal economy. When it came to their reproductive health, survey statistics included:
- One in seven (14%) women reporting they had postponed their annual ob-gyn checkup;
- 14% of all women ages 18-44 reporting that the economy has influenced their plans to increase family size; and
- 9% (nearly 1 in 10) of married women indicating that the bad economy was a factor in their decision to postpone a planned pregnancy.
Also interesting to note is that compared to one year ago, more women are both concerned about having an unintended pregnancy and more conscientious about using birth control to avoid that from happening. Though women reported that having a reliable form of contraception was extremely important to them (9 on a scale of 1 to 10), one must consider whether women will continue to be able to afford birth control, especially when public health clinics and family planning programs nationwide are undergoing funding cuts. The Gallup survey found that ten percent of women were worried about their ability to keep paying for contraception, some had switched their birth control method, and some had quit using it all together.
It is evident that when worried about their financial situation, women are more likely to forgo routine health care and cut back or stop taking their prescribed medications. As it is, Latinas disproportionately lack health insurance and access important services like breast/cervical cancer screenings and early prenatal care in lower numbers. This, compounded with the cultural notion that Latinas put familia first makes the situation even more daunting. Necesitamos seguir la lucha por el aceso a salud reproductiva para todas las mujeres.
By Norma Haro, Research Intern
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