Jessica González-Rojas

Speaking Out for Reproductive Freedom - April 12 2014

Jessica González-Rojas
April 21, 2014— Amherst, Massachusetts
Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) 2014 conference
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Gonzalez-Rojas spoke at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) 2014 conference, "From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom," at Hampshire College.

Buenos dias, CLPP! It is honor to be here and oh my gosh, I have to follow Monica. There's so many inspiring leaders and performers in this room tonight, so I'm just humbled to be here.

It is truly an incredible time to be engaged in the struggle for reproductive justice. As a Latina, coming from immigrant family and a Puerto Rican family, as a mother, as a lifelong activist, I am so proud to lead the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, who is celebrating our 20-year anniversary this year as well.

It is no doubt that the last several years, we have faced some serious and harmful rollbacks in reproductive justice and human rights across this country. In the wake of severe economic downturn that many families are still struggling from, we are facing oppressive attacks on reproductive freedom across the states. We've seen serious damage done to voter protection and voter suppression targeting communities of color. We are seeing the cooptation of religious freedom for those who discriminate against women and LGBTQ people. And we've seen more of our immigrant hermanas and hermanos deported – 2 million, in fact – than any other time in our nation's history. Human rights and reproductive justice are denied every day to families in our communities.

But I'm hopeful. I'm hopeful because our struggles for reproductive freedom did not start in the last year or five years or ten years, and neither has our resistance.

The reality of the communities most affected by reproductive oppression, the struggle has been going on for much, much longer. And I'm inspired to know that women of color, immigrant, queer and trans communities, communities of people with disabilities, low-income families and so many others have struggled day-in and day-out and have thrived in the face of oppression. This is not new.

But I'm also inspired because we together are turning the tide. We are turning the tide for immigration reform when we see young people – DREAMers and their allies – refuse to wait for the slow wheels of political compromise to turn and instead are forcing a national dialogue through direct action and unapologetic demands that their human rights be recognized.

I, too, got arrested. I, too, have fasted. But that is a small action to stand in solidarity with the millions of families that are being separated by this government.

We saw the tide turn in 2012 when despite unconscionable attempts at voter suppression, women people of color, immigrant citizens turned out in record numbers and voted for progressive policies and progressive candidates.

We saw the tide turn at Albuquerque, New Mexico, where communities of color and local reproductive justice organizers played a leading role in defeating an extreme abortion ban that disrespected Albuquerque families.

And we are seeing the tide turn in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, an area of our country that has been ignored for too long, but is nurturing and building a cadre of reproductive justice [Spanish word] and fierce human rights advocates who will take their message all the way to the state capital and beyond.

And while Wendy Davis in her pink shoes captivated the nation's attention, Latinas in the Rio Grande Valley and across sectors have been fighting for years for health care, for transportation and for basic human rights.

I am proud to walk alongside women like Paula Saldana, who are teaching Latinos in their community about sexual reproductive health and then leads them into the office of their policy makers and the streets of McAllen, Texas, to demand better health care for our families and our communities. Paula sees the women in our communities dying from cervical cancer, forcing to choose between putting food on their table for their families or paying for reproductive health care. And she sees women every day living in fear of being deported, and she transforms these struggles into energy and into action.

And I am hopeful because as we see the tide turn, we can and must do so together, across movements, across language, across identities and across borders.

As a Latina, I'm encouraged by, inspired by our community coming out the shadows. Today we have more Latinas turning out to vote, we have a Latina on the Supreme Court and finally we're seeing a national conversation on immigration reform.

Increasingly, it seems our nation's beginning to recognize that Latino communities and our contributions and our concerns.

But at the same time I want to be very clear about one thing: that this rising American electorate that we've heard so much about cannot be successful in throwing off the burdens of reproductive oppression for each and every one of us unless we rise together. We cannot and will not allow our communities to be pitted against each other. We will not be lowered by comparison or competition. And we will not allow our freedoms to come at the expense to of another.

And that's why reproductive justice.

The affirmation of the whole of our complex and intersecting identities determines our access to power and resources has such a critical role to play. The lens of RJ makes it clear: no matter how many states pass marriage equality laws, the struggle for LGBTQ liberation will not be complete until trans people are no longer profiled, harassed and incarcerated and queer youth are no longer subject to homelessness and hunger just because who they are.

The lens of RJ makes it clear as we fight for the path to citizenship for 11 million people without papers, we must also fight for the human rights of all people, including those who will never have the "right" papers.

The lens of RJ makes it clear we need to encourage young people to vote and run for office. We must also fight to reclaim the right to vote for naturalized citizens, for black folks, for low-income communities that are being targeted by voter suppression.

And the lens of RJ reminds us that for every abortion restriction that makes the evening news, there's a denial of the right to parent, a denial in devaluing a parenting of communities of color, and stigmatization of young parents that's being ignored.

So we have a lot of work to do. Our values dictate that we leave no community behind in the struggle for social justice and human rights. So we rise together, or not at all.

And I pledge the work of my hands and my heart that we will not stop until we truly have helped dignity and justice – salud, dignidad y justicia – for all.

So CLPP – what do you say? Can we do it? ¿Se puede? [listens for audience response] ¿Se puede? [listens for audience response] Si, se puede. Si, se puede. Si, se puede.

Thank you, everyone.

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