Category Archives: Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Health

Closing out the summer with YWWAV

It’s hard to believe the summer is almost over and we’re prepping to dive back into the fray of the school year again. This is a bittersweet moment for me as it marks the beginning of my last semester as an NCI RRRH intern. I’m so lucky to have been able to see this program evolve from its conception my sophomore year into its current form. Things have only gotten better! I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities this internship has afforded me and the relationships I’ve been able to make as a result of it. I can confidently say that I am in the position I stand today in no small part because I was given the chance to be a part of this program and grow into a very different version of myself than what I anticipated.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately on my personal and professional growth, and this reflection has informed my approach to the work I’ve taken on this summer. Part of this work has been revamping the mentorship component of YWWAV and digging deeper into why mentorship is so important for young Black women like myself as well as why it’s essential in the fight for reproductive justice. It is an unfortunate fact that many of the program participants, like lots of their peers, lack an abundance of positive relationships with other Black girls and women–whether these people are their friends, siblings, elders, mothers, teachers, counselors, etc. The relationships they do have may at best be shallow and fleeting or at worst lack consistency and compassion, be fraught with violence and/or manipulation, or be colored by selfishness or unresolved baggage. To break the harmful intergenerational cycles that bind many of us, we must redefine our relationships with one another so that they are based upon principles of loving sisterhood, so that they are true partnerships (regardless of age differences), so that they enable us to lift one another up. If we as Black women want the world to trust us, we must first learn to trust each other while simultaneously unlearning all the stereotypical falsehoods about Black women that we have come to believe ourselves. And to do that we must take time, plant roots together, treat each other and ourselves with care, turn outward towards one another, and work through our issues as communities. Black girls need to be reminded of all the possibilities and definitions of Black womanhood–especially the revolutionary ones that shatter the boxes our society too often attempts to trap marginalized women in. Black girls need to see Black women that come from the places they come from flourishing. They need to see that they matter. And Black women need to take on the responsibility of passing on their knowledge and loving Black girls into the people they need to be to serve as the future pillars of our community. This is the purpose of mentorship, and really the program as a whole, which is itself the brainchild of a young Black woman.

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(Shante Fletcher, YWWAV alumna, educates workshop participants on CSE)

As YWWAV nears its second birthday, I have already seen so much growth in the program participants as they move through the stages of their teenage years, then early 20s. It’s been amazing to see the girls gain confidence in themselves and take on new leadership roles as they graduate out of the cohort. My favorite accomplishment this summer was helping our very first program alumna put on her own first workshop for the younger program participants. Talking about the sorry state of comprehensive sex ed in Louisiana, and specifically New Orleans, she helped the workshop members make connections between their own sex ed experiences and the greater issues of reproductive health and reproductive rights affecting them and their peers. These connections are crucial if they are to understand how cycles of reproductive injustice are perpetuated, and how broader social forces have very real effects on their own lives. This was actually one of the most successful workshops we’d had in a while, and it was just the beginning–this one workshop has blossomed into an ongoing curriculum. I would like to see this model carry on into the future as other program participants age out of the everyday cohort. My hope is that this group will continue to teach and learn from each other for as long as possible. People will not age out but be continually reintegrated, called to take on new roles that reflect their unique interests and talents.

I am fortunate to be able to say that I love the work I do. It is meaningful work. It is satisfying work. It is challenging work. And I get paid for it. Which is extremely important, because I am not (yet) financially privileged enough to work for free. But I need these experiences to become who my community needs me to be. This is another thing we understand at YWWAV, where the girls have been working this summer at paid internships in their chosen spaces all over the city. Perhaps if I had had such opportunities when I was their age, the road to here would have been an bit shorter. Perhaps if more of us had such opportunities, our world would be a more equitable place. I’ll forever be grateful to the generous donors and dedicated staff and faculty of NCI who make it possible for me to do the work that needs to be done, and share with others what has been shared with me.

 

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Phase 1 Complete

Hello again readers! Just a quick recap- I’ve been working with Dr. Lederer this summer composing a literature review of the public health community’s current knowledge about factors relating to STI knowledge. We are right on schedule as we have officially completed this first phase of the project! Looking forward, the next step is to draw conclusions from the published research to lead our research question and analysis.

Concurrently, I had the pleasure to form a relationship with the Public Health Research Librarian, Elaine Hicks, whom I met with twice. She helped cultivate my research skills especially in advanced-line searching and determining which research database is best for different topics of interest. I also became very well-versed in Refworks for citations. I’m really grateful for all of her help as I can use these skills in future research projects in my undergraduate studies and into medical school.

In addition, I participated in a newly created journal club with fellow women in research. At our first meeting, we explored a new perspective to contraception in which the article’s authors believed that the discussion should focus more on fertility awareness than pregnancy prevention. This challenged some of our views and led to a lively discussion. We also brought challenges in our own research to the group to search for other perspectives and ideas. I thoroughly enjoyed this meeting especially because it was a mix of faculty and students, but the environment felt like we were peers. I look forward to attending these meetings this Fall.

I’m eager to continue this research, learn more about research dissemination, and publish our paper this coming semester.

 

Netroots Conference

38508311_2049733638382878_1136166832890183680_n                  Last weekend I attended the Netroots Conference here in New Orleans. I was super excited to go because of the many famous and activist keynote speakers. My favorite speaker at the conference was Alexandria Ocasio Cortez in the final keynote. She started her speech by stating that she would not apologize for looking tired or for not wearing any make up. She also was not going to apologize for wearing the same dress because she was here to make a speech and that was all that mattered. Netroots was inspirational in the speakers that gave insight into their political campaigns and their activism.

I also was able to go to a panel on the West Virginia Teacher’s Strike. It was hosted by Erica Newsome, Zenetta Stalworth and Brianne Solomon. They all talked about their roles in organizing the strike and how important it was for all of the schools and teachers to remain united, even when the governor tried to undermine them. The administrators and the teachers worked together for about 2 months to ensure that everyone received equal benefits and pay. Their hard work and dedication paid off because they eventually won in court and received what they asked for. Now, most of the organizers are helping other unions and teachers learn how to organize as well. The West Virginia teachers are inspiring because, even though they won their own battle, they knew they could use their resources and knowledge to help other teachers throughout the country.

I also had the honor of listening to a panel with Amy Irvin, Melissa Harris Perry, Carmen Berkley, Erin Matson, and Aimee Thorne Thomas. This panel was labeled “No Choice” because they all discussed what each of their organization was doing in response to the possible loss of Roe v. Wade. Their conversation was so important because of the upcoming Supreme Court Nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. Their panel went overtime because of how many different ways each organization is working to ensure that all women are able to access reproductive services. It was inspiring to hear and I was so happy to be on the NOAF team while I was there.

Overall, Netroots was a very educating and helpful conference for me to attend. I was able to listen to many people who are working so hard to make a change in our country. Netroots was very inspiring for me as a college student because I was able to see people who had turned activism into their full time job. I hope for the next Netroots, the organization works harder to be more inclusive and include the city in which they are in. Adding a local perspective allows the people who are visiting to really understand the city itself and all of the challenges the city and its people have gone through.

Feminist Camp: Seattle

Meet Justin Sandoval! They are majoring in sociology and gender & sexuality studies with a certificate in human resources. Thanks to a grant from Newcomb College Institute, they were able to attend Feminist Camp in Seattle. Read about their experience below:

Describe yourself and why you wanted to attend Feminist Camp:

I am a native New Orleanian and a rising Senior at Tulane University. During my academic career, I have learned much of the academic theory on the topics of gender and sexuality. In my classes, I discuss intersectional feminism, gender violence, sexual violence, and reproductive justice on a regular basis. I wanted to extend my theoretical knowledge by exploring practical ways that professionals incorporate their feminism into their personal and professional lives.

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What were your favorite parts of the conference?

My favorite session was when I met Adi Baretto and Magie Henry of Textio. Textio creates software that an organization can use to make sure that its language is inclusive. What Textio does is incredible to me. After graduation, I will advance my Human Resources career. So, the discussion about inclusive language in, for example, a job description was very relevant to my professional interests. Both of the professionals talked about the culture of an organization and the personal fit of an employee at a company.

Share any information you learned on reproductive health and reproductive justice:   

Artist Susie Lee discussed how she found that the most important aspect of motherhood and pregnancy is the community of women. She explained that motherhood is not supposed to be on one woman and that woman alone. It takes a tribe to raise a child.

Doula Takeallah Rivera explained to me that a doula offers emotional support to pregnant women. She also uses herbal methods to help heal some of her clients. The idea that jumped out to me was that Western medicine may not be the best on bodies of color and/or queer and trans bodies.

Photographer Jenny Jimenez explained that many female photographers tend to hide their pregnancy and mother-photographer status due to the fear that they might lose clients and job opportunities. While her agent once advised her to hide her pregnancy for her income and career’s sake, Jenny decided to be open about her pregnancy. She also gave me great insight into the world of infertility and adoption.

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Tell us what you learned that you hope to never forget:

I learned that one does not need a career that is undeniably political to bring their feminist values to their career. Some of the professionals that I met had jobs that didn’t sound feminist at first, but, when I actually met the individuals, it became clear how their beliefs and values influence how they do their job.

Why should other students attend Feminist Camp?

The days are very productive, and a participant receives the opportunity to network with amazing people all over the city of Seattle. Throughout the week, I also developed a strong network with other feminist students. The program really shows a participant that feminism intersects with every career and industry.

How did this experience help with your future ambitions?

It solidified my desire to work in Human Resources and strengthened my interest in Diversity and Inclusion initiatives which are growing at a fast pace at many companies. I also learned that I can bring my feminist perspective to anything I do.

 


Does this sound like something you might be interested in? Tulane undergraduate students can apply to NCI for funding to attend Feminist Camp. Email Clare Daniel at cdaniel5@tulane.edu for more information.

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

 

Feminist Camp: Seattle

 

Meet Sarah Jones! She is majoring in Political Economy with a minor in Africana Studies. Thanks to funding from Newcomb College Institute, she attended Feminist Camp in Seattle. Read about her experience below:

 

Describe yourself and why you wanted to attend Feminist Camp:

I was raised by parents who introduced me to feminist ideas and values at a young age. Throughout my young adult years, I have searched for ways to apply these ideas and further challenge them to prove that there are no limits to feminism. I wanted to attend Feminist Camp to meet other individuals interested in using feminism in the workplace and creating the pathways to have feminism in their workplaces.

What were your favorite parts of the conference?

Unlike other conferences, I appreciated the amount of time Feminist Camp allowed for bonding outside of the workshops and the discussions. I honestly left the conference with a number of new friends, and I cannot wait to see all that they accomplish.

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Sarah, seen on right, with fellow Tulane student Justin Sandoval

Share some information you learned on reproductive health and reproductive justice:  

We had the chance to discuss with women their lives as they balance motherhood and working and how they made the decision to do both. I think the important lesson from these conversations was the emphasis of choice, particularly the choice to become a mother. We also met with a doula and had the chance to hear her experience with helping mothers.

Is there anything you learned that you hope to never forget?

We met with two individuals from Textio, and they provided us with useful tools for negotiating with future employers, particularly in job fields where money is made from the experience of people’s identities. I think that this is useful information because we are finally moving into an age where people are being told to negotiate and I believe it is important for people, especially marginalized groups, to understand the tools of negotiation.

Why should other students attend a Feminist Camp?

I believe Feminist Camp exposes people to ways of not living their lives as feminists who keep their ideas and opinions to themselves or their confidantes. I think the camp encourages people to have confidence and take pride in being a feminist and pushes people to apply their values in places where change can happen, i.e. the workplace.

How did this experience help with your future ambitions?

I think I have a clearer view of  what I can do to have a stronger career and how to make the future feminist. Through the workshops, I have learned how to find the right mentors, how to reach out to organizational Boards related to my career interest, and how to build stronger connections from networking.

 


Does this sound like something you might be interested in? Tulane undergraduate students can apply to NCI for funding to attend Feminist Camp. Email Clare Daniel at cdaniel5@tulane.edu for more information.

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

 

Improving Workplace Policies for Breastfeeding/Pumping Employees

Well, the summer has officially begun, and I find myself back in New Orleans to continue the second leg of my research internship with Tulane sociology professor Dr. Katherine Johnson! In the spring, I started working with Prof. Johnson on her “Working and Nursing” qualitative study, which aims to improve workplace policies and practices for breastfeeding/pumping employees in the greater New Orleans area. Mothers who continue working after having a child often face great obstacles in the workplace if they desire to express breast milk as a means of feeding their child: finding the right space and working pump breaks into daily schedules, for instance, are major challenges.

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Last semester, the bulk of my work included reviewing transcripts of interviews that Professor Johnson conducted with breastfeeding employees from a range of industries and evaluating lactation spaces available to mothers on Tulane’s uptown and downtown campuses. This summer, I will help recruit and interview a new cohort of working mothers in New Orleans and bring more focus onto the analysis portion of qualitative research.

I’ve spent the first two weeks of this summer quality-checking a previous batch of community interview transcripts and beginning research on Tulane peer institutions’ breastfeeding policies. I find quality-checking genuinely interesting because I love listening to women’s stories. Having voices to go along with reading a transcript makes the job much more engaging! With every interview I listen to, I am totally in awe at how much mothers sacrifice and persevere through daily to balance their career ambitions with family responsibilities. The innovative solutions they find to create that balance, often out of necessity because of our country’s lacking policies for families, remind me that there is such a need for reform. I hope that studies like these can ultimately help impel some policy change. These quality checks are now done, so it’s finally time to recruit some new mothers for the study!

One challenge that Prof. Johnson has encountered is the need for a more accurate demographic representation of the greater New Orleans area in her pool of interviewees. Last semester, we began discussing how we could recruit mothers from more diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as mothers representing the Hispanic, African- and Vietnamese-American communities of New Orleans, which are important racial/ethnic groups in our city. One of my last research tasks in the spring was to begin a strategy guide for doing this. I learned of a handful of local mothers’ groups with a focus on Black women or women of color, state-level programs supporting breastfeeding for low-income moms, and reproductive health figures in the community who themselves are women of color. Our research will not be the most accurate it can be without this crucial element of representation across class and race/ethnicity, so it’s important to me that Prof. Johnson and I are constantly in collaboration on what the best methods will be for bringing these stories into the study. To be able to interview some mothers myself this summer will be an honor and another challenge I greatly look forward to!

Another thing on my mind is that in the fall, I will be applying to law school! It’s a daunting time, but my summer work is a chance to think about how I can relate themes within reproductive justice to a future in law. In the spring, for instance, I learned about workplace compliance issues and federal legislature associated with it, such as the ACA and FMLA and its applications to different types of employees. In examining Tulane’s breastfeeding policies, particularly, I hope in the coming year to learn about workplace compliance laws in relation to breastfeeding and the implications that this legislation can have for families.

I’m so lucky to be working on Prof. Johnson’s study – seeing her passion for working mothers’ reproductive justice, in being able to choose both to work and to feed their child how they desire, has brought up all sorts of questions in me of how policy and culture can function as transformative mechanisms for the betterment of mothers everywhere. There certainly is no shortage of these questions to be studied this summer! I’m grateful to have this space to learn and collaborate with Prof. Johnson yet again. Until next time!

Escort Training with NOAF

Hi NCI readers! I am Victoria Tiburzi and am writing my first blogpost as an intern for the New Orleans Abortion Fund. My first month at the New Orleans Abortion Fund has gone by quickly. It has been amazing month filled with multiple learning opportunities.

 

One of the first opportunities my internship afforded me was the ability to be certified as an escort to people seeking abortion care in the New Orleans area. The escort training was taught by the amazing Winter Randall who explained the difference between being for reproductive justice and being pro choice. I felt that her differentiation between these two concepts is important because it is important for people who support pro choice to also be pro reproductive justice. This means not just being for abortion care and the clinics that provide them, but also, being in support of reproductive care for all types of people regardless of their race or socioeconomic status. People in today’s society often times think that being pro choice is all that matters, however, in order to fully be in support of reproductive care for everyone we as a society need to make sure that care is accessible for everyone.

 

The escort training covered different situations that might occur while we are escorting. The escorts in New Orleans employ a non-engagement tactic with the protestors at the clinic. This means all escorts completely ignore the “antis”. I feel their policy is very important because it is very easy for certain actions to get misconstrued in today’s day and age. The Feminist Majority Foundation found that “clinics [who] rated their experience with local law enforcement as “poor” or “fair” were significantly more likely to experience high levels of severe violence and harassment (47.0%) than those who rated local law enforcement as “good” or “excellent” (16%) (2016 FMF National Clinic Violence Survey)”. Even though the New Orleans clinics have a good relationship with the local law enforcement it is still important for the escorts to understand the risks of escalation that could occur with the protestors. One of the regular escorts at the training shared her encounter of a protestor reaching across her to engage with a person entering the clinic. She said she simply told the protestor to remember the laws in place to protect the escorts and the protestors, and everything was resolved.

I am excited to apply my new escort skills to an actual shift at the clinic. I know when I get into the real world of escorting my training and knowledge of the laws that protect me will be important. Escorting is a way to provide a service that helps and encourages women to take the steps to receive the reproductive care they feel necessary.

 

*Photo from Google Images*clinic_vest_project.0.0

YWWAV Summer 2018

ywwavThis summer with YWWAV has gotten off to an extremely productive start. One of my favorite parts about this internship is that I’ve had the opportunity to not only form relationships with the youth in the program, but also watch them grow into themselves as young women, writers, artists, activists, and advocates of RJ over the semesters as they discover and pursue their personal passions and niches within the field. Currently, I am working with one of the program’s alumnae (now a rising college sophomore here in the city) to develop a truly comprehensive sex ed unit for the girls in the program that will not only touch on topics of abstinence, contraception, and sexual health, but also dive deeply into the issues that shape the sexual lives of Black female youth. Individual lessons within this curriculum will seek to look at the ways in which social systems work to inform (or misinform) the decisions youth make that have significant consequences in their lives. In these workshops we will ask the hard questions that no one was there to answer or even acknowledge for us when we were in their shoes–questions like:

-How are the issues of STIs, teen pregnancy, and intergenerational cycles of poverty that disproportionately impact Black girls and women related to one another, where do they come from, and how do they reflect a need for intersectional, comprehensive sex ed in our communities?

-How does Black girls being seen as more independent, more promiscuous, less innocent, and in need of less nurturing and protection by the adults in their lives influence their own perceptions of themselves and their sexuality? (For more information, see the article “Girlhood Interrupted by Epstein, Blake and Gonzalez: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3000695.)

-How do the stereotypes of Black female sexuality work to harm mental and sexual health?

-Why does sex ed too often not include the experiences of queer people? And what are the ways in which queerness, race, and gender intersect?

-What are all the reasons (the good, the bad, and the ugly) we have sex, and why do those matter?

-Where does all this stigma surrounding sex come from, and how can we get rid of it so that we can begin to have open, honest, and very necessary discussions with our peers, partners, and parents?

As this unit takes shape, it makes me think of how much this program has evolved along with its participants. I am grateful to be a part of something so empowering and radically different than the discouraging environments I know these girls (and myself) have been in. Hopefully one day spaces like this will be the norm, sex education like this will be the standard, and programs like this will be rendered unnecessary because the institutions and societal structures that children grow up in are finally what they deserve.

 

How Much Do You Know About STIs? Why May That Be?

Hello readers! My name is Amy Vertacnik, and this is my first semester as a Reproductive Rights and Health Intern. Just a little bit about myself- I’m a rising sophomore and will be working with Dr. Alyssa Lederer this summer/fall on a research project exploring factors that contribute to STI knowledge in the college age group. I’m actually a French major with a public health minor, and I’m working towards my Early Childhood Education teaching license. My interests in research primarily include health education and behavior which coincide with my current project perfectly.

I’ve been working with Dr. Lederer now for about 2 weeks, and I’ve been enjoying it immensely. My main focus for this summer and into the fall semester is to compose a literature review of the public health community’s current knowledge about factors relating to STI knowledge. The project as a whole was inspired by Dr. Lederer’s doctoral thesis focusing on how graphic STI images affected sexual education. For this current project, we will be taking the pre-test data of 425 participants from that study and analyzing it to determine what factors contributed to the student’s knowledge of STIs before the sexual education intervention. We have not yet chosen what factors we will be focusing on but some potential factors may include gender, race/ethnicity, when the subject had last seen a physician, number of sexual partners, and more. image

So far, my biggest accomplishment has been finishing the CITI certification program. This certification allows me to work on IRB approved research projects with human subjects. During the rest of my internship, I hope to develop my scholarly writing skills and further understand the process of research dissemination. I’m looking forward to the rest of my time with Dr. Lederer!

Linking Semesters, Finding Intersections

Hello everyone! My name is Julia Guy, and I am so happy to be back as an NCI Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Health Intern for the summer. This will be my second “semester” as an RRRH intern, but my third working with Dr. Clare Daniel as her research assistant. Each semester has brought new experiences and challenges, but I believe each project has helped me learn both more about reproductive justice and how the work I am doing is preparing me for my future career goals.

My first semester at NCI, Dr. Daniel and I worked on collecting resources countering the mainstream narrative of teenage pregnancy prevention. From nonprofits to bloggers, from legal cases to academic literature, I received the opportunity to jump into an area of reproductive justice I had not yet fully realized: supporting those who choose to parent, no matter their age. Working on the project truly made me tune into the harmful rhetoric and political scapegoating young parents face as well as helped enhance my understanding of what reproductive justice actually is beyond the narrow pro-choice definition with which many, including myself, initially discover it.

During my second semester and my first as an RRRH intern, Dr. Daniel and I shifted our focus to sex education in the state of Louisiana, specifically to funding for school programs and crisis pregnancy centers. This project helped me develop my financial literacy skills as well as breaking down a broad task with convoluted information into manageable, digestible pieces. The previous project also helped me realize how insensitive and shameful many “comprehensive” sexual education programs and advocating organizations are to young parents. Sex Ed should be about arming youth with the knowledge to make the best reproductive decisions for themselves while respecting any partners they may have, not shaming or scaring them into or away from any activity.

This third semester is already tying my previous experiences together well as we begin to look more specifically into what exactly happens in Sex Ed classes across Louisiana classrooms. Under Louisiana state law, schools are prohibited from survey students about their sexual activity, including their behaviors, attitudes, and what they may have learned in school or from an after-school program. As a result,  we plan to turn to teachers and administrators to learn how public and private funds are spent in Sex Ed classrooms across the state to hopefully turn into a report to prompt legislative change.

Together, the three projects have exposed me to different areas of reproductive justice and how desperately we need RJ advocates and organization in this state, but I believe that my experiences have helped clarify some of my career goals. I come to NCI not through the Public Health or Gender and Sexuality departments, but rather as a Political Economy and Environmental Studies major. Not only has this internship ignited my passion for true sex positivity and shame-free, inclusive education, but it has also allowed me to see the many areas of overlap between reproductive justice and environmental justice through new perspectives. For example, the safety and toxicity of a living environment can greatly influence one’s ability to truly choose how and when they parent, as well as the health of children and the affordability of their healthcare. Even the lack of basic areas of life that many of us take for granted, such as clean water, breathable air, and access to healthy, fresh foods may decrease the true options an individual may have to govern their bodies and their parenting as they wish. One day, I hope to influence state and national policy to better care for our natural spaces and protect environmentally vulnerable areas and communities, and I believe that through my internship with NCI, I am already gaining research and outreach skills to explore other areas, connecting and uplifting every area of justice. I look forward to learning and exploring more this summer!

I do not own the attached illustration.

ej rj cartoon