On the weekend of April 14, Reproductive Health Access Project (RHAP) team members (staff, fellows, and interns) attended the 37th annual From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom Conference at Hampshire College. The conference aims to “…inspire, educate, train and support new activists and leadership to secure reproductive and sexual rights, freedom, and justice for everyone.” This student-led conference creates a space to cultivate new leaders in the reproductive health, rights, and justice movement.
Prior to the workshop, two RHAP staff members (Rosanna, Development Officer and Natalie, Program Associate) attended New Leadership Network Initiative (NLNI), a project of Hampshire College’s Civil Liberties and Public Policy program (CLPP) that aims to create a collaborate network of diverse, emerging leaders in the reproductive justice movement. At the first session of the pre-conference, Miami-based intersectional organizers and co-founders of Spring Up, Nastassja (Stas) Schmiedt and Lea Roth, presented on Transformative Justice and its potential as a tool and framework for addressing the root causes of rape culture and building the foundations of consent culture. The second session, Brienne Colton (BC) and Sade Swift from Brown Girl Recovery, a Bronx-based organization dedicated to providing community healing sessions for women of color in uptown areas of NYC, presented on Healing Justice and its importance within the reproductive justice movement as a means of collective liberation. They also addressed a critically important question in that needs to be asked more often in our movement: “What do we need to give up in order to get free?”
As an organization, RHAP gave two different presentations at the conference. Laura (Senior Program Manager) and Natalie (Program Associate), facilitated “Demystifying MVA Abortions: The Papaya Workshop.” Presenters demonstrated a manual vacuum aspiration abortion on a papaya, after which the audience was able to practice what they learned on their own papayas. We also discussed what access looks like for reproductive health care in the US and “myth-busted” common misconceptions about abortion. Laura Riker, along with Simone New (The Doula Project), Oriaku Njoku (Access Reproductive Care – Southeast), and Lauren Boc (Physicians for Reproductive Health), also presented “Building Power Through Health Care Access: Direct Service Providers Organize for Change.” Panelists discussed different models for provider advocacy and the diverse ways that the spectrum of direct service providers organize to advance access to reproductive health care in their respective communities.
In addition to RHAP’s presentations and the NLNI sessions, our team members attended several different panel presentations at the conference itself.
- Nora Eigenbrodt, our Program and Communications Intern, attended “Reproductive Justice & State Legislative Abortion Trends: A Discussion on Innovative Intersectional Strategies.” The speakers, representatives from the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Guttmacher Institute, discussed emerging anti-abortion laws in state legislatures across the country, focusing specifically on those targeting marginalized communities.
- Hana Raskin, our Network Research Intern, attended “Reproductive Politics in Latin American and Muslim-Majority Countries.” The panel focused on how abortion laws vary widely across Latin America and Muslim-majority countries. Both panelists stressed that even though countries may share a common religion, interpretations of religious doctrines vary. Also, regions are not monolithic; countries have different histories and political contexts, which directly impact their law-making around abortion.
- Kallie McLoughlin, our Development Associate, attended “Criminalized Bodies: State Violence in the 21st Century.” Panelists discussed the criminalization of women and people of color in their communities and their efforts to stand up for themselves and defend their rights while under attack. The workshop included discussions of what it means for justice when a domestic violence survivor is seen as an “imperfect survivor,” the effect on sex workers when surveillance and saviorism are combined, how to mobilize around privilege, and how to most safely organize and communicate with fellow activists.
- Rachael Pelton, our Social Work Intern, attended “Black Mamas Matter: Film and Talk Back,“ where she watched “Death by Delivery.” In the United States, black maternal mortality is 4x as high as that of white women- and in New York City, this disparity increases to 12x. According to the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, this disparity can be attributed to the different ways the medical establishment treats Black mothers often not taking their pain and symptoms as seriously as those of their white counterparts. When Black mothers utilize midwifery services, their health outcomes are significantly improved, as midwives are trained to listen to mothers and let them lead the experience rather than have the doctor call the shots. This presentation is a snapshot of a toolkit that SisterSong and the Center for Reproductive Rights collaborated on in order to identify strategies to improve Black maternal health.
As always, we are so thankful to CLPP for creating and fostering this space for us and so many fellow activists and leaders in the reproductive health, rights, and justice movement. To learn more about CLPP and the amazing work that they do, please visit them at: clpp.hampshire.edu.
May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a time to highlight the achievements that of these communities in the United States. Initiated in the late 1970s, May was chosen due to the first wave of Japanese immigrants moving to this country, along with the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad.
Did you know that “Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) women have the second highest fertility rate among all races and are the fastest-growing group in the United States with a 46% increase in population between 2000 and 2010”?  With that being said, “many states with the fastest growing Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) populations are among those that limit coverage of abortion to the narrowest circumstances.”  When society continues to perpetuate the false notions of the model minority myth, AAPI populations are grouped as a monolithic identity. This makes it difficult to collect accurate data, erasing the realities of over 50 ethnic communities under the AAPI umbrella who suffer from staggering health disparities and unequal access to reproductive health care.
The Reproductive Health Access Project is proud to highlight trailblazers that are doing their part to combat oppression within the movement in our year-long reproductive justice campaign, “A Common Thread: Weaving Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice.” You will get to read more about people like Eveline Shen, whose work at Forward Together has been instrumental in bridging different movements together to amplify the urgencies communities of color have to provide reproductive rights and justice, and Lisa-Factora Borchers, the Filipina writer and former editorial director at the feminist publication Bitch Media, whose work covers topics ranging from racism, sexual violence and spirituality.
The Reproductive Health Access Network -our community of 2,000 clinicians who work locally and nationally to expand access to abortion, contraception, and miscarriage care- continues to grow by leaps and bounds. In April, we were able to participate in three exciting events that reminded us how much the Network has evolved since its inception in 2007.
Last week, RHAP hosted our national Network gathering at the National Abortion Federation’s annual conference. At this meeting, 40 clinicians from states across the country joined us for appetizers, drinks, and great conversation. Before opening up the space for more casual networking, the group came together and shared with one another why they feel being an abortion provider makes them a better clinician overall. The stories we heard were funny, heart-wrenching, and inspiring–and highlighted the importance of celebrating the unique spaces that family doctors and other primary care providers occupy in abortion care. These national gatherings offer us an opportunity to continue fostering community beyond the local Clusters. This is especially important for the many clinicians who don’t live in a Cluster area, and who may be more isolated than other Network members. It is always remarkable to hear about the different challenges and successes that our Network members face on a daily basis.
On April 25th, Laura (RHAP Senior Program Manager), Natalie (RHAP Program Associate), and Dr. Gabrielle Surick (Resident at the Institute for Family Health and NYC Cluster member) attended the Institute for Family Health’s annual Research Symposium. We displayed a poster entitled “Expanding the Reproductive Health Access Project Network: From 2007 to the 2016 election and beyond.” This poster examined the growth of the Network, not just after the 2016 election, but since it began back in 2007.
Most recently, a contingent of RHAP’s reproductive health advocates attended the American Academy of Family Physician’s National Conference of Constituency Leaders (NCCL) meeting in Kansas City. NCCL is an opportunity for family physicians who are part of member constituencies (women, minorities, new physicians, international medical graduates, and LGBT physicians) to come together and to learn, network, and develop leadership skills. These constituencies also have the ability to author, present, and vote for resolutions that are relevant to them. This year, RHAP sent nearly 20 representatives from our Cluster states to NCCL. They advocated for a variety of reproductive health and justice-related resolutions, including: Decreasing Maternal Mortality, End the REMS, Oppose Fetal Personhood Language, Decriminalize Self-Induced Abortion, and Increase the number of Reproductive Health Topics at FMX- all of which were adopted!
We’re so grateful to all of our Network members for being such inspiring and driven leaders in our movement. If you are a clinician and would like to be connected with the Reproductive Health Access Network, please email Senior Program Manager, Laura Riker, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Supporting the work of a small but busy organization, these positions will play a key role in ensuring that the Reproductive Health Access Project meets its short and long-term strategic goals. These are exciting opportunities for enthusiastic, detail-oriented self-starters to support a variety of local and national initiatives.
We are looking for highly motivated, organized, and detail-orientated individuals who will be an integral part of the organization. This is a unique opportunity to make a significant contribution to an exciting, mission-driven organization. You can refer back to our website for more information on these amazing roles.
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