New guest writer Lazara Paz breaks down Reproductive Justice

Please welcome another new writer to The Sin City Siren!

Lazara Paz, 30, is a self-described Latina with a LOT to say! A product of Cuban and Puerto Rican parents, she was born in New Jersey. She has a Master’s degree in Public Health from UNLV and is currently working on a multitude of health projects focusing on people of color, reproductive justice and the LGBTQ community. She is an activist for equality and justice and has been involved in the fields of human sexuality, HIV/AIDS, cancer, nutrition and other health disparities. Laz believes that it is her due diligence to work in and with communities of color, empowering folks to have healthier lives full of choices! “We need to learn how to take care of our bodies and appreciate who we are no matter what the circumstances. We need to start valuing ourselves and our temples (the body)!”

The Schematics of It All…

~Lazara Paz

Reproductive Justice (RJ)?!?  Yes, RJ; not to be confused with Reproductive Rights.  AH… The schematics of it all…Let’s see if I can succinctly describe the concept to you in 500 words or less.  Now, please take into consideration that this blog entry focuses on issues that stem from and pertain to women of color, yet the message targets all populations.  Simply stated, RJ is about changing the conceptual linearity of reproductive choice as a matter of abortion rights and broadening the topic to include the reality of “CHOICE” and “JUSTICE” for all women regardless of their need for an abortion.

As set forth by our foremothers, reproductive justice is a term coined in 1994 by a group of women of color that participated in the Cairo conference (officially the International Conference on Population and Development), including the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective, among others.   These women saw the need for a movement that encompassed the various levels of injustices affecting the reproductive choice of women of color stemming beyond what was being addressed through a mainstream reproductive rights lens.  Terminology used by mainstream reproductive rights groups focused on “choice” as access to abortions – assuming that having a child is an automatic given for all women – privacy, freedom from governmental interference, and personal autonomy.  We must understand that on many levels, this is unattainable by women of color, let alone by a woman that might be an undocumented individual.  In addition, it must be taken into consideration the many practices endured by women of color for research purposes and other reasons, including sterilization and contraception testing, that historically reduced the ability for women to procreate.  Among this larger subset of women, those most ruthlessly affected were mentally disabled and poor women.

Reproductive Justice is a growing progressive movement based on a broad reframing of women’s reproductive needs.  RJ brings together an emphasis on reproductive rights with human rights, economic and social justice.  This framework recognizes that reproductive oppression is a result of the intersection of multiple injustices at work and is inherently connected to the struggle for social justice and human rights.  A short blog entry does not allow for me to list all forms of oppression a woman of color must face, but in short it is compromised of poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, and social injustice.   Health issues among women of color are associated with a number of interrelated socio-cultural, biological, and economic factors, including the aforementioned, as well as low social status of women, low levels of education, racism, rapid urbanization, and local customs. The synergistic effect of these factors often reduces woman’s decision making power regarding her own sexuality, and constrains the ability to seek quality reproductive health care.

In the United States, the racial, gender and economic discrimination faced by women of color interferes with our ability to acquire services or culturally appropriate reproductive health information. Mental health issues such as: depression; substance abuse; physical and sexual violence; lack of education, the lack of availability of services and income, are related to racial, gender and economic inequalities that specifically limit the potential of women of color to live healthy and fulfilled lives. The salient issues are not the diseases that affect women of color, but the poverty, homelessness, inadequate health care, and the denial of human rights that are the root causes of many problems. As stated by Zanida Mendez in 2006 for the National Organization of Women, “the goal is not to single out parts of a woman’s body, but instead see women’s lives and experiences as a whole.”
So… I didn’t reach my goal of explaining RJ in 500 words or less, but I sure hope that I have introduced to you a movement that tries to encompass all women.  As I mentioned earlier, I recognize that I focused quite a bit on the issues that affect women of color, but in reality, these are issues that affect us all!  Whether we want to recognize it or not, injustices against woman, our decision-making power and our bodies, are, unfortunately, alive and well.  Please do not let this continue…  Obviously, these issues are much more complex than anything I could write in this space.  Look out for some more pieces from me… If you’ve got any questions, comments or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me at lazarapaz@yahoo,com.  Otherwise, until next time!

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