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Upcoming Get Out the Vote Events with RHAP

September 18, 2014

Eunice the Uterus, the V to Shining V mascot

National Voter Registration Day: Get out the vote with RHAP in Union Square!

National Voter Registration Day is a national effort to get as many people to register to vote as possible. The goal is not to advocate on behalf of a particular candidate or party, but to make sure everyone has access to voting come November 4th. Stop by the RHAP table in Union Square on September 23, and make your voice heard!

Date: Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Time: 8:30 am-7:00 pm
Location: Union Square, South Plaza (corner of 14th and Union Square East)
RSVP here!
Search for NVRD events near you!


Come celebrate V to Shining V with RHAP on September 27th!

On September 27th, people across the country will gather to celebrate V to Shining V, a national day dedicated to strategizing how to change the laws that are disintegrating our reproductive access—all while celebrating female pride! Have a drink with RHAP at the Soda Bar in Brooklyn, NY for our very own V to Shining V celebration. Register to vote and get information about the upcoming election and local legislation affecting reproductive health, while enjoying performances from feminist comedy group, Buzz Off Lucille and others. V to Shining V is a national effort created by Lady Parts Justice, a collective of comedians and entertainers, including Daily Show creator Lizz Winstead and comedian Sarah Silverman. If you can’t make it to Brooklyn, see if you can find an event near you!

Date: Saturday, September 27, 2014
Time: 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Location: Soda Bar 629 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11238
RSVP: online at v2shiningv.eventbrite.com
This event is free and anyone who registers will receive an awesome goodie bag!
Find a V to Shining V event near you!

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“I was treated better when I had an abortion.”

September 16, 2014

Linda Prine, RHAP’s medical director, moderates the Access List, a clinical listserv with more than 1,000 subscribers all dedicated to providing abortion care within family medicine and primary care settings. This blog regularly features Linda’s postings to the Access List.

Early Pregnancy Loss Awareness

I was shocked by the hurt in her voice when our patient started telling us about the care she received in the previous weeks when she started to have some vaginal bleeding early in her pregnancy. First she called her OB/Gyn, who did not come to the phone to talk to her but whose office staff told her to go to the nearest emergency room. This was a highly desired pregnancy, so it was very scary to her that she needed to go to the ER. She was afraid it meant something bad, not only for her pregnancy, but for her own health. She was at home, in Northern New Jersey, and went to her local community hospital. There she waited more than six hours before she saw a doctor, another three hours until she got an ultrasound, and then another four hours before anyone told her what was happening. Finally the doctor reported, “The pregnancy is not viable, but since your bleeding is light, there is nothing that needs to be done right now, so you can follow up with your gyn.” The doctor was brusque and hurried away, implying that he had “real emergencies” to deal with. They gave her a copy of the ultrasound and discharged her. The words that jumped out at her from the written report read “no fetal heart beat.”

The next morning, she called the OB/Gyn’s office and again was only able to speak to clerical staff. They told her to fax her ultrasound report and they would call her back. Late that afternoon, they called her back to tell her she was scheduled for a D&C in the hospital three days later and to fast after midnight the night before. She had so many questions: “Why had this happened? What was a D&C (dilation & curettage)? Was it the same procedure she’d had years ago when she had an abortion?”  She had not been told to fast that time and had been awake for the procedure. Everyone had been really nice to her at the abortion clinic and had answered all her questions. Now she was being treated like she didn’t matter at all and that her pregnancy “didn’t matter.”

Since she had three days before she was supposed to show up at the hospital, she started to ask around. Through her office-mates she heard about our family practice, which is close by her job. Our staff knows to get someone in right away who is bleeding in early pregnancy. We saw her the afternoon the same day she called. It was a long visit because we did more than just give her all the options for care that we could provide in our office: expectant management, or “letting nature take its course”; misoprostol medication; and/or an in-office Manual and Vacuum Aspiration (MVA) procedure. We also helped her process what she had been through, reassured her that she had not caused her miscarriage, and that she would be able to get pregnant again. It was so sad that she felt demeaned and belittled by the medical system when her situation was so heartbreaking and scary to her.

Miscarriage is so common, it should not be marginalized, and there are rarely times that ER care is needed. Yes, an urgent ultrasound should be done, but that’s not impossible to arrange in most places, and more and more family medicine residency practices have on-site ultrasound. I would really like to see family medicine step up to the plate and own miscarriage care. This woman was so very, very grateful to us for our consideration of her needs – but that should be normal! It shouldn’t feel like special treatment to be respected, to have your worries addressed and to have your grieving acknowledged.

It was sort of nice to hear (although sad that it was coming from such painful feelings) that she’d been treated better when she had an abortion.  And it was good to see how much better she felt after our conversation where we explained everything about her miscarriage and her treatment options.

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6 steps for community based organizations to make a difference in the midterm elections

September 9, 2014

shutterstock_fbA simple voter registration drive can make a big difference this November 4th! Helping your clients register to vote is easy, legal and can be integrated into daily operations. Your non-partisan involvement through voter registration is a critical step to engaging new or infrequent voters. Many community based organizations such as health centers, non-profits, schools, and civic organizations serve populations that are typically underrepresented in the political process. The community sees these organizations as trusted messengers that represent and amplify their voice. Better serve your clients by integrating voter registration into your operations this September!

6 easy steps to voter registration for community organizations:

1. Find out your state’s voter registration procedures and get the forms:
For most states the rules are as simple as printing the forms and sending them in on time. But a few states have extra rules so double check your state’s voter registration procedures. For many states voter registration forms are available online for download and printing. Find out procedures and download the voter registration form from your state’s Secretary of State office, local Registrar of Voters, or Board of Elections. Or use the National Mail Voter Registration Form, which can be downloaded in multiple languages and is accepted in most—but not all—states.

2. Offer the voter registration form to the clients:
When clients visit your organization give them the opportunity to fill out a voter registration form. It may seem easier to just have the forms available in the lobby, but asking each client if they want to fill it out and then handing them the form will provide much better results. You can incorporate this activity into daily processes such as sign-in or regular meetings.

3. Double check that important information is filled out:
Make sure that your clients check the boxes verifying that they are a United States citizen and are at least 18 years old. Check that they use their full residential address, including apartment number, not a post office box. Have them fill out their entire Social Security number if they can. The form requires at least the last four digits of the Social Security number be filled in.

4. Learn if your state has a voter ID law:
30 states require voters to present identification at the voting booth, and 15 states require picture ID. Find out your state’s voter ID laws. Then let clients know if they need to bring a form of ID with them on Election Day.

5. Offer to mail in their voter registration form:
Explain that clients are welcome to mail in their registration, but assure them that your organization is turning in many people’s cards and can make sure that theirs gets to the right place in time.

6. Submit the voter registration forms by your state’s deadline:
Mail or bring in the completed voter registration cards to your state’s Office of the Secretary of State or your local Registrar of Voters. Find out your state’s voter registration deadline. Most states require you to register to vote at least 30 days before the election.

For more information check out these great voter registration resources:

DoSomething.org: Conduct a Voter Registration Drive
Non-Profit Vote
Rock the Vote
National Voter Registration Day

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Reproductive health in the voting booth

September 2, 2014

This year it has become clearer to me than ever that our elected officials – at every level – are controlling reproductive health care access.

Our political representatives have the power to write, pass and enact laws that directly impact access to contraception and abortion care. They appoint judges who make critical legal rulings limiting or mandating health care. They appoint officials who create policies and programs that provide and oversee health care across the country.

In 2013 state legislators passed over 141 laws on reproductive health care (half of which restrict access to abortion).  This year we have seen the power of the judiciary branch of our government, from the Supreme Court’s groundbreaking decision undermining employer coverage of contraception, to the recent federal court ruling on the restrictive anti-abortion laws in Texas. Local elected officials have an impact too –  consider the city laws protecting protecting crisis pregnancy centers.

On November 4th we will have the opportunity to weigh in on who our elected officials will be at the national, state and local level. There is a lot at stake this election year:

-36 states will be electing governors, the largest turnover in 60 years.
-All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for election.
-33 seats in the Senate are up for election.
-Hundreds of state and local legislative seats are up for election all across the country.

We have an opportunity to shape the discussion and affect who elected leaders are.

The Reproductive Health Access Project has been thinking a lot about what we, as a small non-profit dedicated to ensuring that everyone has access to reproductive health care, can do ensure that our country’s laws and policies support universal access to reproductive health care. Our expertise is clinical, but we can’t deny that profound effect that laws and policies have on clinical care. So, we have decided to dedicate the months of September and October to urging our colleagues, friends and followers to register to vote. We are also providing information on how to help others in your community register to vote and to sharing information and resources so that come November 4th voters who care about access to reproductive health care access can make informed decisions at the ballot box.

This campaign starts now.  Get out the vote. #GOTV

Here are three things you can do to make a difference this election.

1.  Register to vote in time for the November 4th election. If you don’t know if you are registered, check here. If you need to register, you can register on online.
2.  Learn where your candidates stand on issues you care about. Make sure to find out not only what they say, but what they do. Check this page, especially in October, for updates on state and local candidates records on reproductive health access.
3.  Vote on November 4th. Not sure where you vote? Find out here.

Think of joining the GOTV campaign as a bit of preventative medicine for our country. Careful, thoughtful action now will have a great impact on our nation’s health and well-being in years to come.

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Why I provide abortions

August 14, 2014

whyiprovideabortionsDr. M. is an abortion provider in Buffalo, NY and a member of our Family Medicine Reproductive Health Network. He has chosen to speak anonymously to protect himself and his family. We recently asked him what moves him to provide abortions and this was his answer.

It’s simple. I provide abortions because it is basic medical care and I am a general practitioner. The level of opposition to basic medical care simply astounds me.  At their core, obstacles to birth control and abortion are sex-discrimination.

I ask men “have you ever walked into a store and bought birth control?”. Of course, in the vast majority of cases, the answer is yes–almost every man has bought a pack of condoms, myself included. Then I ask things like “did you have to go to a pharmacy? Were you able to buy it without talking to someone? Did you need a prescription? Did anyone shame you? Were you able to afford it?” The barriers are sex discrimination! Men in political office are making medical decisions for women, or at the very least, creating a burdensome environment to access care. You know that if men could get pregnant you’d be able to get an abortion easily.

I have a daughter. If she needed an abortion, I’d do whatever I could – I’d take her to Europe if I had to. That’s my privilege—I’m very lucky. And that’s the way it’s always been. If you have money, getting an abortion is no problem. You can pay for the travel, or you can pay for the psychiatrist to deem it necessary. On that level, restrictions to access are not only sexist, they are classist as well.

I care for many patients from surrounding states that have enacted strict abortion regulation. I’ve treated a 14 year old whose cousin risked life in prison to bring her across state lines to get an abortion because they lived in a state where parental consent was necessary. The 14 year old had been raped by a family member and other family members were incarcerated, so consent was impossible to obtain. What struck me is that this cousin, a kid really, had to risk life in prison because a politician somewhere thought he knew better about why someone might need an abortion. Have these guys ever talked to women? Why do they think they have the right to judge?

You asked why I perform abortions. I think the better question is how can I not?

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New Faces: Stephanie Blaufarb and Gabrielle deFiebre

July 25, 2014

6-GGStephThe Reproductive Health Access Project (RHAP) staff is proud to welcome two new members to our team.

Gabrielle (GG) deFiebre, MPH joins us as our research associate. GG earned her bachelor’s degree from New College of Florida and her master’s degree in public health from the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College. GG interned with RHAP during her last year of graduate school, helping conduct our qualitative miscarriage study and using the results as part of her master’s essay. As the research associate GG helps design, implement, and analyze the results of several research projects, including our annual survey of graduating family medicine residents trained in abortion care and our new survey of miscarriage care in community health centers.

In May Stephanie Blaufarb joined RHAP as our program and administrative associate. Stephanie became passionate about reproductive health during her Peace Corps service in the Republic of Vanuatu where she worked as a community health worker. She organized adolescent health education camps and women’s health workshops covering HIV/AIDS, STIs, and family planning. Stephanie is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public health at Hunter College. Prior to joining RHAP Stephanie worked at the Fort Tryon Park Trust, Columbia University Medical Center, and the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston.

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13 ways providing abortion care makes me a better doctor

July 22, 2014

woman doctor woman patient 3Linda Prine, RHAP’s medical director, moderates the Access List, a clinical listserv with more than 1,000 subscribers all dedicated to providing abortion care within family medicine and primary care settings. This regular column features Linda’s postings to the Access List. At our recent Reproductive Health Access Project gathering at Society of Teachers of Family Medicine annual meeting, we discussed some of the ways in which providing abortion care makes us better doctors. I pulled together everyone’s comments and am sharing below. Providing abortion care makes me a better doctor because:

1.   It teaches me the real meaning of being patient centered.

2.   It taught me how to reserve judgment and understand that I can’t walk in anyone else’s shoes.

3.   It makes me brave because I don’t really think I’m a brave person. But when I do this work that I intensely believe in, in a state that would like to criminalize it, I know that I am being brave and that makes me a stronger person.

4.   It makes my procedure skills better for IUDs and endometrial biopsies and really all procedures.

5.   It taught me how to really, really listen to my patients. It lets me make abortion a normal part of the life cycle. Since I take care of women I’ve known since they were infants, and they know me and trust me and I can make the abortion a normal part of medical care for them and let them know I think it’s a good decision for them and be a supportive person who they know cares about them as I provide this care.

6.   It has helped me discuss so many difficult areas with patients: morality, spirituality, and ethics.

7.   It gives me a chance to let women know that I respect their dreams for their future and that I will help them get there by providing the abortion they need so that they can have that life back that includes pursuing those dreams.

8.   It has been a way for me to improve my counseling skills, my listening skills, my empathy with patients, so many things I need for being a good doctor. I have gotten better at due to providing abortions in my own office and all that it takes.

9.   It’s all transferable to other areas of medical care: including understanding systems issues and politics of medicine and really everything!

10. It has helped me become a better teacher of residents because I have to be mindful of the patient and the resident and be sure that both of them are doing ok all the time.

11. It helped me be there to support women through a particularly difficult moment – it sometimes occurs to me that my patient will remember this day for the rest of her life.

12. It helped me to recognize that abortion can be something super important or something routine and normal, depending on the particular patient’s situation.

13. It is the thing that gets me “jazzed” which helps keep me interested in other aspects of family medicine. It taps into all aspects of myself within my work. Thinking, feeling, troubleshooting, coordination, love and family and friends and all that is truly important in life.

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After Hobby Lobby: taking action to ensure contraception is basic health care for everyone

July 2, 2014

contraception-scotusThe development of safe, effective contraception is widely considered to be one of the greatest public health achievements of the last century. Contraception reduces unintended pregnancy, improves birth outcomes, reduces maternal death and has been correlated with improved health and economic benefits for families and communities. Worldwide, contraception is considered basic health care and access to health care that includes contraception is a core human right.

The Reproductive Health Access Project is dedicated to ensuring that contraception, abortion and miscarriage care are integral components of our nation’s primary care system. We know from our work across the country that there are many factors that influence how readily you can access reproductive health care. Our medical director, Linda Prine, and research associate, Gabrielle deFiebre, recently published an article in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved entitled Disparities in Contraceptive Care that breaks it all down. Age, race, income, and geographic location are key factors associated with access to contraception in the U.S.

Now, because of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision , the religious affiliation of your employer has been added to the list of barriers to contraceptive access. Religious institutions have always posed barriers to women’s health. Our blog post by a family nurse practitioner working in the rural south highlights the convoluted hoops she has to jump through in order to provide her patients with contraception.

What can we do we now? We need to take action now to urge President Obama and Congress to come up with a plan to ensure that those affected by yesterday’s Supreme Court decision have access to basic health care – including contraception. Please join us in telling Congress and the President that contraception is basic health care. Access to contraception is non-negotiable. Tell your friends, family, and colleagues to take action too. Together we can ensure that everyone can access the reproductive health care they need.

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Religious restrictions vs. quality care: my struggle in a Catholic healthcare system

July 1, 2014

I’m a pro-choice nurse practitioner anBirthControl-Catholocism_jpg_800x1000_q1001d I am the only medical provider in the only clinic serving a community in the rural South. My clinic is run by a Catholic hospital. I want to share my story for a couple of reasons. One, I hope that other folks out there in similar situations (I know you’re out there!) will read this, feel a little less alone, and will keep on fighting the good fight. And two, I want to create a window into my world for those who are practicing in more liberal environments.

When I moved to the South from New York City and started looking for jobs it became clear early on that I had to choose between being a comprehensive family practice provider or an abortion provider. I think that I knew that I had been practicing in a ‘bubble’ for the past few years, but I really didn’t realize what an unrealistic view I had of how primary care actually occurs in most of the country. I had an “in” for a job at an abortion clinic but I didn’t want to leave primary care. I felt a real responsibility to work in primary care, as if it would be a waste of my skills to leave it behind. I decided to take my current position because it offered some unique opportunities for me as a nurse practitioner with regard to the level of control I have over the practice as the only provider on site. The clinic was not even open yet when I was hired, so I got to pick the supplies and medications we keep in stock (with limits of course: no Depo, no IUDs, no EC, etc), I got to hire my nurse, I even was involved in picking the art we have hanging on the walls.

One of the first questions that I asked during my interview for this job was about providing basic women’s health care that included contraception. Basic, right? Contraception is legal and, especially in resource poor rural areas, control over fertility can make the difference in a family’s economic future. I was told by my administrative manager that “what happens in the exam room is none of my business, I’m sure that lots of other providers are prescribing whatever they want.” I thought this was a really weird answer at the time, but I now realize that it perfectly sums up the de facto “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy here. I reached out to my colleagues for clarification, and nobody would (or maybe could?) give me a straight answer about what was allowed or forbidden. One of my colleagues who has been prescribing birth control told me that when she provides contraception, she always gives the patient a medical diagnosis (like “Acne” or “Dysmenorrhea”) rather than use the standard v25.9 Contraceptive Management diagnosis code. So now I do that too. When a patient comes to me asking for birth control I lead them through a series of questions trying to find a reason other than fertility control to provide contraceptives, hoping that they will mention cramps or irregular periods.

birth control choicesEvery patient who needs birth control is a puzzle to be figured out. A time consuming, complicated puzzle. For example, if a patient wants the Depo shot, I have to call their insurance company and try to convince them to cover the Depo at the pharmacy instead of at my office because I’m not allowed to stock it. This also puts added responsibility on the patients to pick the Depo up at the pharmacy and bring it back to the clinic so I can administer it. I have been building a list of providers located within an hour of my practice who insert IUDs and contraceptive implants. These processes create a real mix of emotions in me. It is immensely satisfying to solve each of these contraceptive puzzles–I did a little dance after giving that first hard-earned Depo shot! I’m proud to spend this time to provide women the care that they need, but it does put a strain on me, my patients, and my practice.

The relationship between religion and medical practice has created a strange environment within which I provide medical care. Talk of religion happens early and often. Every staff meeting starts with religious reflections and my clinic has been blessed by a nun. I had to sign an employment contract that said I would uphold Catholic ethics. I believe it excludes good practitioners who happen not to be Catholic by limiting the scope of their practice—you have to decide to provide birth control and risk being fired every time you do, or simply not work there. Considering how large this Catholic healthcare system is in the region where I live and work, this is definitely problematic.

I’ll admit, when I took this job I envisioned myself blowing in here and bringing in fresh ideas and making huge changes. I know now that this expectation was unrealistic. Not just because of the barriers created by my employer, but also because of the values and comfort level of many of my patients. Many of my patients have never been provided with contraception or pregnancy options, and will sometimes respond to their presentation with offense, but more often with the resignation of a decision already made by the environment in which they grew up. When I mention abortion as an option for an unplanned pregnancy, I might get a resounding “NO!” or I might get a resigned, soft “no…” that has become all too familiar. But whereas at my previous practice, I was often able to get to the bottom of that soft little “no…” I am still struggling to get there with many of my current patients. I think it’s a combination of geographical barriers (the closest abortion provider is an hour away), financial barriers (Medicaid doesn’t pay for abortions), structural barriers (at my last office I might be able to provide them with an abortion that same day!), and, finally, cultural barriers (often the patients say they don’t know anyone who has had an abortion). I’m still working on it. Another puzzle.

L.M. is a nurse practitioner working in an environment under onerous religious restrictions. L.M. must remain anonymous as any connection between their personal values and their work environment would lead to loss of employment.

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The 2014 Civil Liberities and Public Policy Conference

June 18, 2014

This post was written by Ayesha Rehman, a junior at Macaulay Honors College at CUNY and the Reproductive Health Access Project’s research intern.  Every year RHAP sponsors our interns to attend the Civil Liberties and Public Policy conference at Hampshire College.  This year we asked Ayesha to document her experience at the conference and share her thoughts on our blog.  

Day 1, April 11, 2013


Ayesha between workshops at the 2014 CLPP Conference

After a long bus ride, my friend and I finally arrived at Hampshire College for the 2014 CLPP Conference. The first workshop that we attended was called Deconstructing the Good Mother Myth. The panel consisted of 5 people – Avital Norman Nathman, Deborah Jiang Stien, Sarah Buttenwieser, Natasha Vianna, and Tope Fadiran Charlton. Each panelist had a unique story, but the two that made me think the most were Natasha and Deborah’s narratives. Before attending the workshop, I admit that I always perceived teen pregnancy as a negative thing. I had the belief that teen moms are often not able to care for their children because they are still high school students who can only manage to get minimum-wage jobs. While the reality might be grim for many teenage moms, it is not always the case. Natasha, a mother who became pregnant when she was 17, shared how she grew to be more resilient by having the chance to be a mother. She had to transfer from her unsupportive Catholic school to a public school- where there was a day care. She said it was the attitude of the surrounding people that was hard to deal with. Natasha completed high school and went on to get a college education, but again the uncooperative approach of people around her made life difficult. Society often promotes the notion of delayed parenthood as the right choice, but at the end of the day, it falls on each person to decide when to become a responsible and caring parent. The other speaker who touched me was Deborah, an adoptee born in prison. She shared how women who are incarcerated are denied basic human rights when it comes to fulfilling their right to be a mother. From being shackled during labor to not having legal custody of their children, women in prisons are treated as if they don’t deserve to be mothers. I became so interested in this topic that  I went to another workshop called Invisible: Women in America’s Prisons and Jails on Saturday that delved into it more deeply. More on this in Day 2.

Day 2, April 12, 2013


Banner in the main hall during the morning plenary

Saturday’s opening plenary consisted of brief presentations by organizations that are working for reproductive justice throughout the country. From the upbeat performance of Joe Scott’s song Golden by Monica Simpson of SisterSong to poems read by activists, the day started with vibrant energy. The first workshop I went to was called Self Cervical Exam: Abortion, Menstrual Stories, Birth Control, and Self Examination As Tools for Self-Determination. I was curious to find out about the self-exam. But I came to the conclusion that learning such a skill is not of much use to me. I do not think that knowing what color the lining of one’s cervix is helpful in telling anything. I believe it is best to consult a clinician when it comes to taking care of one’s reproductive health. The second workshop was on the violation of female prisoners’ reproductive rights. The panelists talked about the conditions of jails in Massachusetts, but I assume the circumstances are not much different in other parts of the United States. Visitors have no rights as they are sniffed by dogs and made to wait long hours. These actions are taken to dissuade people from visiting, so that inhumane treatments like female inmates being stripped in presence of four or five male guards may go unnoticed and ignored. An incarcerated mother who gave birth to her son while shackled spoke of the unnecessary and cruel practice of restraint during labor. She explained how officers at the facility did not believe her when she said she was going into labor and so she was not taken to the hospital on time. From her story, I saw how organizing a campaign with media coverage can move anti-shackling bills forward and shed light on the barbaric treatment that is  practiced in prisons. If an anti-shackling bill passes in Massachusetts, it will be the 19th state where imprisoned women can safely give birth just like any other mother. The last workshop for the day was Organizing for Reproductive Justice in Religious Communities. The main theme that I took away was that if you want to bring reproductive justice into the conversation among religious people, you have to start small. You can begin by talking to a close friend or family member and instead of pinpointing who is opposing your ideas, try and find allies. This makes it easier to move your goal forward. This strategy is very relevant to activists who want to discuss abortion rights because 87% of U.S. population has some sort of religious beliefs. Another important thing that the panelists discussed was recognizing our own limits. For instance, if you feel that abortion is permissible but later-term abortion doesn’t align with your own beliefs, then advocating for all abortions might be problematic. All in all, I learned there is no one-way to reconcile religious beliefs with reproductive justice. But we can find answers by beginning to talk to people with the same position.

Day 3, April 13, 2013

The workshop I went to on Sunday explored environmental and climate justice. I was interested in how the panelists – Asa Needle and Jacqui Patterson – were going to relate environmental issues to reproductive justice. Sure enough, the advocacy agenda of Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere became clear when they discussed how landfills are almost always located in communities of color and low-income populations. Harmful chemicals and carcinogens that seep into the water supply can mean disaster for everyone, from children to pregnant women. The panelists mentioned how one African American community was not informed about landfill pollution that was happening in their vicinity and as a result, people in that community consumed contaminated water for a year! This is also true for other facilities that are known to emit toxic residue. For instance, besides having a sewage treatment plant and health-hazardous-particulates-puffing bus depots, there are plans of building research labs with security clearance for highly dangerous substances such as anthrax in Harlem, which has the densest African population in the world after Africa. Factors like these play major roles in the overall health of the people in these communities. From harmful mutations in babies to higher asthma prevalence, the health of some social classes is being knowingly compromised. This has to be stopped. One way to do so is by informing more people and starting a conversation about the problem. I am glad I was able to attend the 2014 CLPP conference and go beyond just the facts, like how the U.S. constitutes 4% of the world’s population but emits 25% of carbon gases. There is so much more to the discrepancy than the numbers show and I was able to learn and talk about important issues at the conference.

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