CLPP Reproductive Justice Conference: Live-Blogging Speaking Out for Reproductive Freedom

Good Morning, Everyone! I’m back, live-blogging at CLPP’s Reproductive Justice Conference at Hampshire College.  I’m listening to speakers at the Speaking Out for Reproductive Freedom event.  There are reproductive justice activists here from 38 states!

One of the first speakers discussed American Indian people.  She talks of the importance of connectedness and spirituality.  She said,

“Indigenous people face colonialism…in the interests of the worldwide economy.”

She starts to sing.  Tears start forming…not sure why.  Perhaps it speaks to something deep within.

Another speaker, a Hampshire College student, talks about receiving a self-exam kit to look at your cervix…complete with speculum, mirror and flashlight (wow, that’s kind of awesome!).  She questions, what’s the point?

“I want to give self-exam kits to every self-identified woman I know…women must be given the opportunity to see themselves and participate in their healthcare…I know women who have given birth.  Their male doctors have seen their cervix but they never have…we need not only to see but to listen to our bodies…to have agency over what enters our body and what does not…even if someone tells me I shouldn’t have a choice, I know I should have a choice in the matter.”

Another speaker discussed a pivotal gender course she took and how we need to challenge one another and ourselves.

“Reproductive justice encourages people to keep thinking and address their own assumptions…choice isn’t enough; choice for some is a luxury.”

Another Hampshire College student shared how she had an abortion and how participating in CLPP allowed her to share her story.  She wants to help other women “break that silence.”

“This movement isn’t based on theories and ideas; it’s built on stories from people on the front lines.”

Marlene Gerber Fried, professor and President of Hampshire College, said this conference celebrates 3 decades of activism.  She said its CLPP’s privilege to build this activist space in building the movement.  She shared how it takes courage to be a reproductive justice activist.  She shared how the Abortion Speak-Out (which happened last night, featuring people getting up and sharing their abortion experiences) grounded all of us in women’s health and reproductive lives. Gerber Fried declared,

“We need to listen to women in the margins; it tells us what we need to be fighting for…Audre Lorde told us there is no such thing as a single issue struggle.  We don’t live single issue lives.  While the Abortion Speak-out was about abortions, it was about all of the things that come together in a woman’s life.”

Gerber Fried went on to quote Dr. Tiller:

“Abortion is about survival.  It’s not really choice, it’s not even a right…women experience fighting for their lives.”

Betsy Hartmann discussed the connection between energy and social justice:

“Nuclear power is also a labor and a peace issue.”

Another speaker talked about wellness.  Society caters to the male and able-bodied; leaving out women, queer, trans, gender non-conforming, the impoverished, disabled, immigrants, people of color. She said,

“How can we and will we redefine safety and wellness for our communities?…Anti-choice legislation that targets black women as eugenists. Bullshit…Those who are marginalized…how will we be safe?…If one of us is not well, none of us is well.  We need to move away from a disaster economy and build sustainable wellness for all…we are not allowed collective grief even though we face constant violence…If we are not male, Christian and able-bodied, we are not seen as a real body.”

A speaker who was the former president of Medical Students for Choice talked about the disconnect between some in the medical community and choice.  She posed that many pregnancies are unplanned, women need abortions and someone needs to perform them.  Yet many doctors feel that it’s not for them.  She said,

“Without abortion providers, there is no choice.”

Nia Robinson discussed sustainability:

“Every day our communities and environment are under attack. And often fall on bodies of communities of color & low-income…Make sure sustainability rhetoric is not just a political trick to maintain the status quo.”

B. Cole of the Brown Boy Project shared work on masculinity and bringing together groups of queer men of color, trans men of color and straight men of color.

“How do we have this conversation with those who are not in the room?  How can we have conversations with people who see things completely different than you?…[In building this movement], it’s going to require that we not only speak to each other but we open up the conversation to those who are not in the building.”

Rebecca Gomperts of Women on Waves talked about access to healthcare services:

“You can be a personal mess and still have important things to say…this country’s healthcare system is so fucked up.”

A self-proclaimed “recovering police officer,” Neil Franklin talked about women and the war on drugs.  He divulged that the incarceration rate for women increased 888% (WTF?!).  He said,

“I don’t apologize for being a thorn in the ass of mainstream law enforcement…justice is not blind.  Lady Justice…is wearing a blindfold…it was intended to indicate that justice is not blind.  We can actually peak and take a look.  We have to be aware of this as we go about the business of criminal justice.  It’s hard work but we have to prevent ourselves from peeking in order for it to work.”

C. Angel Torres “Skittles” talked about youth being criminalized for sex work and trafficking.  Individuals are charged with trafficking when they work as a sex worker in order to make a living and how organizations are charged when they offer support and condoms as they’re viewed as supporting trafficking.

“We are taking away young people’s choices about what they do to survive.”

Deon Haywood of Women with a Vision discussed how anal and oral sex actually “crimes against nature” in Louisiana (say what?!).  WWAV responded by filing a lawsuit against the State.  She said,

“I know that I fit but Im not always sure how I fit.”

Paris Hatcher of SPARK Reproductive Justice Now talked about those offensive, racist, anti-choice bullshit billboards accusing black women having abortions of committing genocide.  She declared,

“After legacies of taking care of other people’s children, we’re being accused of not being able to take care of our own…People shame and blame black women.  they think they can say whatever they want but we know we speak for ourselves.”

Jessica Yee talked about indigenous people and reproductive justice.  If we don’t recognize the struggles of indigenous people, everything will be difficult for us to do.  Indigenous women have been here; they were reproductive activists before the terms were named.  She said,

“We’ve been talking about oppression and repression…and who has it worse.  But we haven’t yet named the territory.  It’s the land of the Wampanoags and Mohegans and so many others whose names we’ve forgotten…if you don’t know the land in which you are on, and you think you need to be Native American to say that, everything is going to be difficult for you…Without taking full control of our lives and our bodies…we’d be wards of the state.”

Yee passionately discussed how we supposedly live in a post-race world (oh we so don’t) and how she doesn’t care about being included.  She calls herself an Indigenous hip hop feminist reproductive justice freedom fighter.  She said,

“I’m interested in being the center of where things come from….I’m not sorry for being a woman…Feminism isn’t new…I’m here to say: Fuck the waves, we’re the ocean.”

YES!!! Yee was fired up!  What a badass…LOVE her!  She asked the audience to share what they were not sorry about.  People said they were not sorry for their sexuality, for having plastic surgery, food stamps, being Catholic and feminist, being a feminist vegan dyke.  It was empowering discourse.  Women too often swallow their emotions and identities, internalizing pain and shame.  We need to stop apologizing for our gender and embrace our identities.

Read my other posts on CLPP’s 2011 Reproductive Justice Conference.

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