It’s the Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice, and you know what that means. Well, actually, maybe you don’t, because the reproductive justice issues facing Latinas today aren’t very visible in the media or even among mainstream feminist groups. So that’s why Latina activists are taking this week to raise their voices about the importance of self-determination over their reproductive destinies. In addition to hosting public events to educate communities about reproductive justice issues, the Week of Action features some thematic blogging on Nuestra Vida, Nuestra Voz, the blog of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health:
Rita Martinez makes the case for the inclusion of comprehensive family planning in the health care reform policies governing preventive care. That, she says, would help compensate for the sex ed that girls like her never had growing up:
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. …
Giving this prudish perception about sex and what it means to be a birth control user was a complete disservice–the repression we experienced during our formative years undoubtedly continues to influence how we currently perceive contraception (for better or worse). Also, it directly impacted many of my peers during senior year, when a record number ended up pregnant. What did the school have to say about this? Nothing.
Lucy Panza describes an epiphany she had upon realizing that as an activist in her community, she wasn’t as alone as she, and so many others, had assumed:
For me, it has been really important to begin asking questions about who we are as Latinas who support reproductive choice, and what our daily actions say about our identity as Latinas. For example, when I take my birth control every night, am I…a Latina taking birth control? An American taking birth control? A Catholic taking birth control? A law student taking birth control? A 25-year-old taking birth control? A consumer taking birth control? A reproductive justice advocate taking birth control? Someone’s girlfriend taking birth control? Someone’s daughter taking birth control?
In fact, I am all of those identities when I take birth control (and when I go shopping, and when I go to class, and when I watch The Daily Show, and when I lobby members of Congress, etc. etc.). And I can’t help but wonder whether my decision to take control of my fertility and decide whether, when, and how I’m going to have children is a larger statement about what kind of Latina, American, Catholic, law student, 25-year-old, consumer, reproductive justice advocate, girlfriend, and daughter I am. I think it is, and I hope that Latinas continue to explore how our identities intersect with and affect each other when we make reproductive decisions. None of this happens in a vacuum, and we can no longer accept the stereotypes that are perpetuated about us.
Even if you never thought of yourself as a reproductive justice advocate, per se, take a moment to reflect next time you take the pill or get an STD test: For Latinas and other women of color, the diversity of experiences surrounding seemingly simple health decisions reflects the movement’s progress, but also shows the challenges that remain in broadening access to family planning.