Mi experiencia como organizadora de base en diferentes comunidades a lo largo de los Estados Unidos, me ha enseñado que mi comunidad está llena de carencias educacionales, de servicios de salud, de dignidad y de justicia; que no han permitido todo el florecimiento que como pueblos hermanos de diferentes lugares del mundo nos merecemos. Por eso después de verlos sufrir por la falta de documentos legales para trabajar y de estar huyendo de un lugar para otro sin poder dejar raíces, sin tener una cobertura de salud para las mujeres y para sus familias, creo que ha llegado el momento de que cada uno de nosotros se involucre en los destinos políticos de nuestras comunidades y que por miedo no permitamos que unos pocos nos priven del derecho a vivir con dignidad. En los procesos políticos que estamos viviendo, tomar acción puede ser la diferencia entre que tengamos una Reforma Migratoria que cubra todas nuestras necesidades ó una Reforma limitada llena de restricciones. No olviden que para las familias inmigrantes y cada uno de sus integrantes no va a haber una cobertura de salud durante los 15 años de espera para obtener un status legal completo, pero yo me pregunto ¿qué pasará con los millones de mujeres y sus familias si se enferman durante el proceso y no pueden prevenir daños mayores a su salud?, ¿donde está esa parte de la Constitución que dice “We the People”? si somos iguales ante la Constitución entonces es hora de exigir que no nos traten como si fueramos de segunda clase.
Pierde el miedo a involucrarte en tu comunidad con o sin documentos todos tenemos la obligación de exigir cambios, si piensas bien en cada una de nuestras casas existe un ciudadano ó residente que puede ser la voz de ustedes y que unidos lograremos cambiar las políticas que tanto daño nos hacen.
No permitas que nos encasillen esperando 15 años en la cobertura de salud, el voto es ahora involúcrate!!
Post By Nicole Catá
The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health has long defined reproductive healthcare, autonomy, and decision-making as human rights. Nowhere is the need for a human rights framing of reproductive issues more acute than in the case of the California prison system. Last month, the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that, between 2006 and 2010, doctors sterilized nearly 150 female inmates in California prisons without anything remotely resembling informed consent. State documents further divulge that doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation may have completed up to 250 tubal ligations since the 1990s. Many former inmates are coming forward as having felt ill-informed regarding and coerced into the procedure. This case reminds us that absolutely everyone, incarcerated or not, deserves dignity in reproductive decisions.
Valentina Forte-Hernandez is a Berkeley California born Immigrant/Reproductive rights activist. She is interning at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health this summer before returning to her second year at Hampshire college where she studies film production. During her first year of college she worked for Civil Liberties and Public Policy and wrote for the online political blog, The Black Sheep Journal. She is a 19 year old, biracial Latina who writes about topics that speak to her personally. She has voiced her opposition to the shaming of teen moms, Texas’ anti-abortion legislation, immigration reform that hurts the lives and rights of immigrants and now she writes about the need for comprehensive sexual education for teenagers:
Post By Valentina Forte-Hernandez
Teenagers are having sex and will continue to do so whether you like it or not. It’s nothing new, but people are still acting as if it were a shocking discovery. Whether you like it or not, the fact of the matter is that many teenagers are sexually active, not liking it does nothing to prevent teenagers from having sex and it certainly does nothing to protect them. Instead of frowning and wagging your finger, why don’t we put more effort into making sure teenagers are physically and emotionally safe when they do make the decision to have sex? We need sex ed that actually teaches teenagers how to be smart and safe about sex. We do not need education that shames us and our bodies, we don’t need to be taught that we shouldn’t talk about sex. Sex will be a part of our lives whether we choose to be sexually active or not, so we need to know about it and be prepared for it.
Opponents of comprehensive sex ed may claim that it puts dirty ideas in teenagers’ heads and encourages them to be sexually active. If that’s true, then could somebody explain to me why the states that take the abstinence only approach to sex ed have higher rates of teen pregnancy than states that require comprehensive sex ed? Abstinence only classes do not deter teenagers from being sexually active. These classes provide students with no resources or information about safety, they teach teenagers to be ashamed of their bodies and sexuality. Shaming teenagers about sex does nothing to protect them. Teaching abstinence only classes not only puts teenagers in danger of spreading disease and unwanted pregnancy, it also increases the chance that they will be in emotionally unsafe situations. If your teacher is saying that you are wrong for having sex, you’re not going to feel comfortable asking your teacher any questions if you are considering having sex. If a teenager already feels ashamed for having sex it is so much harder for them to come forward with an incident of sexual assault or rape. They have already been told sex is wrong, so who do they go to when something wrong has happened to them?
Comprehensive sex ed gives students the information to help them make their own decisions about their bodies and it gives them the confidence to be honest about their desires and experience. Students who have been given the tools to protect themselves have the knowledge and ability to practice safe sex, while students who don’t have any information may not know how to have safe sex. A teenager who has been told that being sexually active is their choice to make is more likely to have the confidence to refuse unwanted sex than one who has learned to be self-conscious and secretive about their sexuality. Teenagers in abstinence only classes are not learning about sex in school but they’re still having it so comprehensive sex ed is clearly not to blame for the fact that teenagers are sexually active.
Comprehensive sex ed is miles ahead of abstinence only classes when it comes to protecting teenagers, but that’s not to say it’s perfect. I grew up in California, a state that offers comprehensive sex ed and has just seen it’s lowest rate of teen births in 20 years. My first sex ed class happened every other wednesday afternoon. This was the only classes where the boys were separated from the girls. I don’t know what the boys were learning about while we were watching our teacher put tampons in glasses of water because we never talked about it. That was the problem, we didn’t talk to the boys about sex and the segregation of genders was teaching us that we shouldn’t have these discussions with each other. Some might say that these early sex ed classes should be taught separately so students feel comfortable asking embarrassing questions. Sex ed is uncomfortable no matter what, but we should have been going to that comfort and feeling that embarrassment along with the boys. We should be learning from an early age that it is okay to talk about ourselves with anyone, regardless of gender. In my first sex ed class, I was taught about my period, I was taught about contraception but I learned that my body, my experience as a girl was icky to boys and I should never talk to them about it.
All of my sex ed classes were severely lacking when it came to teaching us about the emotional aspects of sex. The word consent was never uttered, nor was there any discussion about any of the emotional choices that come with being a sexually active person. We never discussed the depiction of sex in popular culture which may not seem like it’s directly related to sexual safety, but considering that we are surrounded and influenced by dramatic, idealized depictions of sex, we probably should have at least one conversation about it. When our movies and advertisements are teaching us things like, girls who have sex are slutty, and if you have sex with him, he’ll stay with you forever it would have been beneficial to talk about the reality of choosing to be sexually active and to debunk some of these artificial depictions. There was no discussion of rape ever. Maybe the topic was avoid in hopes that it was an issue we would never have to deal with, but hoping for the best did nothing to prepare us for the worst, it did nothing to teach us about preventing rape, or what help was out there for us if we had had such an experience. We were given the number to a confidential hotline….Oh, and we watched an episode of Law and order: SVU once, that’s sufficient, right?
Maybe these conversations weren’t happening in my comprehensive sex ed class because adults didn’t feel like we were mature enough to discuss the emotional impacts of being sexually active but the fact is many of us were already sexually active so these conversations should have been happening. If we were old enough to learn about protection and use it we were old enough to learn about communicating with partners, and we were definitely old enough to learn that sex in the movies is miles different from sex in real life. We knew there were physical consequences to having unsafe sex, we saw the pictures. When it came to the emotional impact of having sex, we were left to figure it out on our own through trial and error and in sometimes the error did a lot of damage.
Sex ed needs to improve across the board. The abstinence only approach to sex ed needs to be thrown out the window because it doesn’t work. Any class that fails to discuss why being a safe and responsible sexually active person requires more than just using condoms needs to rethink their curriculum. Teenagers need to learn to be honest and confident in their sexual decisions. They need to know that it is not only okay to talk about sex, but that they should be talking about it! If you can’t have a real discussion about sex, you shouldn’t be having it. Sex ed should be about equipping teenagers with all the knowledge, resources and confidence to make the most best, most informed decisions for themselves. If your sex ed class isn’t rooted in teaching teens about sexual safety, then it is not serving the actual needs of teenagers. Sexual safety means physical protection, it means communication, it means honesty, self-awareness and respect. Stop trying to shame teenagers out of having sex, it won’t work. Protect and respect teenagers’ rights to make their own decisions about their own bodies.
Because the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is kicking off the Latina Week of Action blog series with posts about gender and reproductive justice, I was hoping to highlight a piece by Lauren Rankin at Truthout called “Not Everyone Who Has an Abortion Is a Woman – How to Frame the Abortion Rights Issue.” The piece makes the case that the ongoing “War on Women” is not just a war on women, and that, as the Latina Institute has long recognized, the rights of trans men and gender-nonconforming people are also at stake in the struggle for reproductive justice. Rankin calls on activists and advocates tackling “women’s issues” to incorporate more gender-inclusive frameworks and language. I am grateful to Rankin, the New York Abortion Access Fund, the Latina Institute, and many others in paving the way for gender inclusivity in reproductive justice.
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.
Elizabeth Estrada is a Mexican immigrant living in Miami, by way of Atlanta, GA. She started serving the Latino community as an immigrant and reproductive rights activist in Atlanta. Elizabeth later joined the Feminist Women’s Health Center’s team of promotoras through the Lifting Latina Voices Initiative, where she provided sexual and reproductive health education to Latinas in the metro Atlanta area. Elizabeth joined the Latina Institute’s Florida Latina Advocacy Network in July of 2013, where she will continue to serve the Latino community.
I am so excited and proud to be joining the Latina Institute team and what a better time than at the start of our Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice! I have been working for reproductive justice for the past 3 years in my native Atlanta. True to the southern states I see many similarities regarding abortion restrictions in both Atlanta and Florida. This is the reason I decided to join Latina Institute’s Field Organizing team in Miami.
Restrictions on women’s reproductive rights have been popping up everywhere in the U.S. Since 2011 over 120 abortion restrictive pieces of legislation were present in several different states across the US. It’s important that we fight to keep our reproductive freedom, but what about ACCESS? I think of the many women of color that are affected by a lack of access to make the choices they need. This is why Latina Week of Action is so important to me.
As a Mexican immigrant I am aware of the many barriers there are to access health care services in the US. There is fear of having to present any kind of legal documents when entering a community health clinic, the lack of knowing the language, and the basic need for transportation to get to the clinic or doctor. Now with the new immigration reform on the table, we must be forced to wait 15 years to access any kind of health services? Latin@s have been major contributors to the US, not only by our (under paid) labor, but by the many sacrifices we make to be a valuable part of the US. We see examples of this with immigrants working in the strawberry fields of GA, and the tomato fields of FL, all the while exposing ourselves to the many dangers that come along with working in these lines of work.
Latinas are an invaluable part of the fabric that makes the US thrive and it is not fair to ask that we wait 15 years to access health services. This is not a partisan matter; this can be a matter of life and death in some cases. When creating immigration reform, we must not primarily think about the economy, but of family unity, compassion, and care for the people that live here. We must not forget the importance of including ALL people in the reform, most notably our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I’m happy to be a part of Latina Institute’s team in FL and be joined by many other wonderful organizations that are fighting for justice in immigration reform and across many other issues that intersect with reproductive justice.
We will fight until we achieve justice. Seguimos adelante!!