Last week was Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice sponsored by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice and the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights. The week encouraged women to get active in reproductive justice by (1) demanding inclusive best practices at reproductive centers in their area, (2) writing their own stories about contraception, (3) fundraising for Latina specific reproductive rights and/or justice agencies, and (4) participating in events in the communities that sponsored the event. The commitment to talking more about reproductive justice openly and honestly is particularly important in light of the National Women’s Law Center findings that pregnancy and parenting responsibilities significantly limit Latinas’ educational success and 52% of Latinas will become pregnant before they reach the age of 20.
Due to endless over-commitment, I did not have time to post about the issue last week; I regret that because I am a Catholic girl from Catholic school who knew very little about contraception and even less about safer lesbian sex and yet helped ensure that the my closest friends in high school were taking responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their partners. I don’t think my story is one that you are likely to see on other blogs and yet, I do think that I represent a group of young women who continue to be taught abstinence while living in a hypersexualized world. So maybe I’ll weigh in later.
For now, several amazing Latina bloggers did participate. They wrote on the import of cultural competence in the reproductive justice movement and their own experiences and identities around sexuality and reproductive rights. Here are some of the highlights (use the links to read their posts in full):
Bianca Laureano weighs in on access and knowledge about safer sex through the lens of hip hop and correct condom usage at Vivir Latino:
Although some of us think condoms are all around us, accessible, and an important part of decreasing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) including HIV, the reality is there’s limited dialogue and even less proper use of them that centers our community.
There are so many people I’ve met who don’t know how to properly put on condoms that it’s distressing at times. Even my potential partners, when I watch them put a condom on their body or a toy, I’m kind of surprised at the misuse of the condom. So, today for you Vivir Latino readers I’ve done some research and found some videos in Spanish that discuss condom use, including the female condom, and that discuss how to properly put them on. (more here)
Lucy Panza weighs in on stereotypes about Latina’s and Catholicism that get in the way of Latinas and others recognizing how dedicated to reproductive rights and choice the community actually is:
I found myself surprised at the findings of the study. I realized that had been persuaded by the “persistent myth” that Latinas are predominantly Catholic, and as such they carry strongly anti-choice views (“choice” meaning the wide array of reproductive health decisions that a person can make). But then I realized something else: wait a minute, I’m a Catholic Latina who is pro-choice. (more here)
AFY-Sarah tells a personal story about supporting girls in her classrooms and the connections between reproductive justice, race, class, and rural-urban divides:
Every week I’d have girls coming to my classroom, asking to go to the nurse so they could go home because they “stained” their pants. They weren’t taught enough about their menstrual cycle, so they weren’t sure when to expect their period and come prepared with either a pads or tampons. Sometimes they had irregular periods, but their parents didn’t know about the pill to regulate periods, couldn’t afford it, or didn’t want their daughters on it. There wasn’t a teen clinic nearby, and transportation was incredibly difficult because the area I taught in was both rural and poor. There was little to no public transportation. (more here)
Rita Martinez points to the need for comprehensive reform in school based curriculum and how the lack of it enforces silence amongst Latinas, and other young girls, who must need to know how to be safe:
Normally, I too would be silent on this issue, I mean, it’s a private matter right? Like many young Latinas, I never really felt comfortable talking about contraception with my parents; god forbid they think I was “active,” (shudder). This subject matter was only really appropriate among girlfriends and the like, where it was easier to share such experiences. To exacerbate the problem, aside from a couple days of Sex Ed in 6th grade and that dreadful quarter in Freshman Studies, I don’t recall ever having a real opportunity to discuss contraception options. (more here)
Susana Sanchez compares her comprehensive women’s health care coverage in Latin America to the utter lack of it in the U.S. exposing the disconnect between long held beliefs about women’s health in the “third world” by western feminism and depictions of U.S. health care vis-a-vis “the third world” in the U.S. (and I use “third world” here to doubly underline the beliefs about backwardness that permeate these discourses rather than a commitment to the term or its meanings):
My experience with health care had led me to take health insurance for granted and consider health care as a human right. What a shocking experience it has been to come to the U.S. as a penniless international student! It never occurred to me that the world’s most powerful country had a health care system that excludes the most vulnerable populations. (more here)
Sylvia Henriquez continues the discussion about lack of access to affordable reproductive health for Latinas in the U.S. at HuffPo
Despite health care reform, many Latinas are still without access to birth control even when they have health insurance. The country is mired in stigmatizing, sensationalized debates about Latinas and reproduction (Latina teens have twice the birth rate of white teens! Latinas are having babies so they can become citizens!). Yet scant attention is paid to the financial, regulatory and social barriers that stop many Latinas from accessing the birth control they seek. (more here)
While all of these pieces help tell important stories about Latina Reproductive Justice and I am proud to highlight them here on the blog, one of the concerns doing this round up raised for me was the absence of testimonios by Latina lesbians, bi-women, and transgender women of any sexual persuasion or at least about their needs. Our conversations not only need to be more public, they need to be more inclusive. The absence of queer stories is as much an indictment of myself, remember when I said I was too busy to write, as anyone else. So I am encouraging you all to write your own stories for your blogs, publication, or even just for yourselves even though the week is over the struggle certainly is not.
If you have a story to tell, send us a link and we will highlight it and tweet it.