Expanding Our Choices - Women's Foundation California

expanding-our-choicesIn 2011, anti-choice organizations launched a series of billboard campaigns targeting Latino and African American communities in Los Angeles. Imagine a billboard of a beautiful Black baby boy framed by the words “Black&Beautiful,” with the URL “toomanyaborted.com.” Then imagine a billboard announcing that “The most dangerous place for a Latino is in the womb.”

Our grant partners, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice (CLRJ) and Black Women for Wellness (BWW) sprang into action both to take down the offensive billboards and to educate their communities about reproductive justice and women’s right to control their bodies.

“Reproductive justice is you having a plan with what to do with your body. And you having the tools, the resources and information to work your plan,” says Janette Robinson Flint, executive director of Black Women for Wellness.

According to our grant partners, reproductive justice is not just about abortion. And abortion is not just about terminating an unwanted pregnancy.. Abortion is an important social and economic justice issue that has been reduced to a sound bite that has been dividing women, communities and most visibly, political parties since before Roe v. Wade.

“Reproductive justice is your right to have children, if you desire to have children. It’s your right not to have children, if you desire not to have them. And it’s your right to parent the children that you already have,” said Laura Jimenez, executive director of California Latinas for Reproductive Justice.

“Finally, reproductive justice is your right to have access to healthcare, education and resources to make all these healthy decisions,” Laura added. Yet, more than one-third of low-income women in this country do not have healthcare.

The harsh truth is that a woman’s access to healthcare is directly proportional to her income, which is directly proportional to her reproductive health. Abortion is a symptom of a problem, not the problem itself. Instead of focusing on stopping abortions, the focus should be on overturning the social inequities that make it impossible for low-income women to have comprehensive healthcare.

Back in Los Angeles, the billboards were taken down within a week of them going up. To make this victory possible, BWW and CLRJ worked not only together, but forged alliances with women’s organizations all across California and the United States.

What’s more, they forged historically unlikely alliances. CLRJ found common ground with immigrant and civil rights organizations like Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. BWW worked with male leaders in their communities, among them Reverend Eric Lee of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Roderick J. Elzy of Great Beginnings for Black Babies, who became champions for women’s reproductive health rights.

“It’s a major success for us to get organizations that in the past may not have supported reproductive health rights and see them come out publicly and support our campaigns,” said Laura Jimenez, executive director of California Latinas for Reproductive Justice.

By building alliances, educating their communities, and cultivating cross-issue relationships, CLRJ and BWW are changing hearts and minds:

”Here at Black Women for Wellness we have done some great policy work that has impacted folks upstream. But when we’re able to see folks downstream—in the river—get it, and when they’re willing to join us to work on policy, that’s when I get excited and am hopeful,” said Janette Robinson Flint.

NOTE: This story was part of our 2011-12 annual report. See the 2011-12 annual report.

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