Reproductive Justice is Long Overdue for Latinx Communities
By Aura Lopez Zarate, Raiz Organizer, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York
Each year from September 15 to October 15, we celebrate Latinx Heritage Month to honor the histories, cultures, and contributions of Latinx communities. The U.S. Latinx population is extremely diverse, coming from over 20 countries in North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, with its own unique Indigenous languages, culture, cuisine, and music.
At Planned Parenthood of Greater New York (PPGNY), this month continues our commitment to supporting and empowering Latinx communities through our health care delivery and advocacy. This is my community — and we deserve to thrive and live healthily, making our own informed decisions about our own bodies, and creating our families in our own vision.
Sister Song, the revolutionary Black-led organization that coined the term reproductive justice, defines the concept as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities. As a Latinx person, reproductive justice is crucial because our access to health care (including safe, legal abortion) is impacted by our race, gender, economic status, the language barriers we face, and sometimes immigration status.
The fight for reproductive justice intensified this week when doctors at an ICE detention center in Georgia reportedly robbed multiple women of their bodily autonomy by forcing or coercing them to have hysterectomies. The whistleblower, a Black nurse who risked her career and life to stop these atrocities, claims that in many cases, the immigrant women did not give informed consent to undergo surgery. Forced sterilization is a horrific and inhumane violation of a person’s reproductive freedom and human rights. Immigrants are human beings no matter their documentation status and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
The history of reproductive violence including forced sterilization in the U.S. is long, dehumanizing and racist. In 1965, a survey of Puerto Rico residents found that a third of mothers ages 20 to 49 had been sterilized. U.S. government funding, as well as funding from private individuals, supported this effort. Planned Parenthood of Greater New York stands with our partners and community in calling for the immediate halting of forced sterilization not only in detention centers but in the prison system at large and globally.
I am a 24-year-old Oaxacan DACA recipient, a fashion and nature enthusiast, and the organizer for PPGNY’s Raíz program. My purpose is to engage the Latinx community in the fight for reproductive health, rights, and justice by addressing issues that affect the Latinx community and our access to care. Together we can reshape the future for our communities, families, and children. One way to achieve that is by completing the 2020 Census before the September 30th deadline. Your census data is confidential and will not be shared with ICE or law enforcement.
It’s equally important for you to confirm your voter registration status. To live in a true democracy where all voices are heard and represented, all people must exercise their right to vote. Your elected federal and state officials influence your everyday life and the issues that hit closest to home. Whether you’re voting early, voting in person, or voting by mail — ensure your voice is heard this November. The census and voting are crucial to achieving our hopes and dreams as Latinx New Yorkers. Acting today will have lasting effects that extend far beyond this Latinx Heritage Month. Contigo — In Solidarity. In Celebration.
Aura Lopez Zarate is a Raiz Organizer at Planned Parenthood of Greater New York.