Standing Up for Women's Lives & Women's Health
In the chaos of the GOP’s efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, it’s easy to forget what the fight is actually for. Who would be affected the most if Planned Parenthood were to be defunded? It’s easy for politicians to target an organization they don’t necessarily agree with based on their own beliefs around abortion or women’s autonomy over their reproductive healthcare. What politicians fail all too often to see are the people that it would directly impact, the communities for whom, often times, Planned Parenthood is the only affordable option for healthcare. Sometimes we ourselves fail to see the immediacy within the communities, but they exist.
Although access to reproductive healthcare is being threatened every day in the United States, in Connecticut we are fortunate to live in a state where our rights are protected. Connecticut has historically been a place where much of the fight for reproductive rights took place and access to reproductive health care has been secured. We are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Griswold vs. Connecticut, where access to birth control was granted under the right to privacy clause. Reproductive rights have come a long way since then but there are still threats that exist politically locally and globally. Planned Parenthood of Southern New England held a dialogue with New Haven/Leon Sister City Project. Erendira Vanegas, who is the Director of Women’s Violence Prevention Program in Nicaragua, came to PPSNE to talk about her work in developing a safe haven for women who’ve been victims of domestic violence. PPSNE’s Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Gretchen Raffa, talked about the current political climate that threatens to defund Planned Parenthood and the impact U.S. policy has on reproductive health worldwide.
What was most striking about the conversation was how similar grassroots organizing looks like both locally and in Nicaragua. According to Erendira, Nicaragua has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. Therapeutic abortion is allowed only in cases of rape or if a woman’s life is in danger, and even then access to safe abortions can be difficult for women to come by. Erendira is part of a feminist movement in Nicaragua to that are pushing for either the legalization of therapeutic abortions or decriminalize abortions altogether. Erendira emphasized how difficult it is for women to access healthcare; many women are not covered through the country’s healthcare system due to their living locations or their marital statuses. In addition, sexual and domestic violence is ubiquitous in Nicaragua. “He hits me the normal amount” is a statement that Erendira hears from the women that come to her for help. Erendira offers support groups, education and training for women to build their own power by sharing their experiences and taking action. Erendira has established a “promotores” program, where women are trained to be leaders and educators, who themselves have been victims of domestic or sexual violence. The promotoras will go on to educate and help other women who have seeking a safe haven. Erendira’s group has picked up momentum and has taken their efforts to the streets; protesting in front of government buildings and religious institutions, they are pushing the boundaries and demanding change for themselves and for their future generations.
It was inspiring to hear and to see how our sisters in Nicaragua are demanding change. It’s imperative that we lift the voices and stories of the people who are affected by these restrictions to ensure that we never lose sight of why and for whom we do this work. Reproductive rights and access have improved for people in the U.S. overall but there is much work to be done to ensure access for all people. For many other countries like Nicaragua, the fight is only beginning and thus it is imperative that we recognize that in many ways, their fight is our fight.