Teen Mothers CAN change the world

We can do better by our youth and by mothers!

Nuestra Vida, Nuestra Voz

By: Desiree CaroImage

May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.  Groups could use this opportunity to educate our youth about sexual health by providing information about and promoting safer sex.  Instead, the Candie’s Foundation has decided to release an ad campaign that shames teen mothers and devalues motherhood.  These ads, which stigmatize mothers of all ages, are endorsed by various celebrities who seem to be clueless about the message they are sending to mothers across the globe.

One of the more appalling ads states: “You’re supposed to be changing the world…not changing diapers.”  Since when did changing the world and changing diapers become mutually exclusive?  Plenty of women of all ages have changed the world and changed diapers. Just take a look at some of the amazing young mothers that work with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), such as Leydi and Gloria, who are powerful women…

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Surviving “going viral,” or, how I launched a national conversation about abortion


Is this what it feels like when you decide to “Say Yes” in life? I am exhausted. I am touched. I am amazed. I am horrified. I am in awe.

Last week I did the same thing I do every week (several times a week): I wrote a blog post. Same as I ever do. But that one post set it off. People were talking. I got invited on a local TV show (and then a clip of that show was aired a second time later in the week).

I suppose I should have seen it coming. As I sat listening to Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores’ compelling, raw testimony during an April 1 hearing on a comprehensive sex education bill (AB230), I should have paid closer attention to the gasps of horror that came from the opposing side. I should have recognized it as the epicenter of a grand shock-wave that had yet to hit. Because that was the moment when Flores, Nevada’s first Latina assemblywoman, announced publicly for the first time that she had an abortion at age 16.

“I’m going to say something I’ve never said publicly before, because — Why not? I’ve been open about everything else?” Flores tearfully said as she began to tell the story of her unplanned pregnancy. “I had six other sisters, all of them became pregnant in their teens — all of them. One was 14 years old when she got pregnant with twins. That is what I had to learn from.”

When Flores found herself pregnant at 16, she went to her father to get money to have an abortion because, she said, she saw how difficult circumstances were for her sisters, already mothers so young. Flores’ story is just another thread in an amazing story of redemption that found a former gang member turn good by getting her GED, then law degree, and who now works as a state legislator. She credits her parole officer with helping change the course of her life, already marked by a juvenile record.

Then, because of what somebody said in a public hearing, people got carried away and made threats against her. Threats against her life because they hated something she did (have an abortion). No matter what you think about abortions, I do not understand a mentality that says threatening that person with violence is the answer. Don’t you remember the lesson from the after-school-special? Violence is never the answer!

I kept thinking about that old Dixie Chicks song: How in the world can something I say/ send somebody so over the edge that they write me a letter/ saying that I better shut up and sing or my live will be over?

So I got mad. Really mad. And I took to my other blog, The Sin City Siren, and I wrote the truth. I wrote my feelings. And I breathed life into what would become a viral campaign, a flash-point for another conversation about abortion rights.

But while the anti-choice folks have made hay with headlines declaring, “I Don’t Regret Killing My Baby,”* it is disturbing that any person or persons have threatened the Nevada lawmaker with violence. As a Christian and a mother, I pray for her safety. When I tucked my toddler into bed tonight, I hugged her that much harder as I struggled to hold back tears thinking about Lucy Flores, not because we should condescend to characterizing even highly educated, powerful women as simply “somebody’s daughter,” but because Lucy is a fellow human being living with fear tonight. I have empathy for the worry she must feel.

It is this complete lack of empathy that is at the core of the opposition to women’s autonomy, and their access to legal forms of health care, or even the education that can help them establish healthy relationships, healthy sexual experiences, and healthy futures. Rather than live and let live — or even turn the other cheek, as Jesus might say — the anti-choice movement cannot see the humanity in any person not living their life as a man in a heterosexual man’s world. Because if you are anything other than a heterosexual, cisgender man you are cast as unequal, weak, or even deviant. I daresay the only humans who come close to having equality with men in their patriarchal, misogynistic, homophobic, and often blatantly racist world-view are the fetuses they fight so hard to legally classify as “persons.”

So, today, right now, I propose that we show our own personhood, so to speak. I propose that we take the #IHadAnAbortion meme of a few years ago and we publicly stand with Lucy Flores. Regardless of whether or not you have ever had an abortion, we need to stand with Flores and all the countless women she represents. Because she represents many who may be too afraid to come forward with their stories because of the same bullying, terrorist threats that Flores is confronted with right now.

I posted that in the wee hours of April 4. And by the end of the day, I had received emails and interview requests from The Huffington Post, Think Progress, and many more. People were standing with Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores for talking about having an abortion during a hearing on a comprehensive sex education bill. They were standing with her because they objected to threatening someone with harm or death for simply telling their story. People were standing with Lucy Flores because they had an abortion, too. Others stood with Lucy Flores because they applauded her bravery, to risk her political career (and, it seems, her personal safety), to champion a bill that may help others avoid the experience she had at 16.

By the end of the day, THOUSANDS of people had tweeted their support for Lucy Flores!

I can honestly say, I never expected to be the architect of something like that. I have certainly done my fair share of activism. I’ve helped the campaigns of many others over the years. But I never thought something I wrote would go viral like that.

I am deeply humbled by the support and positive messages that flooded in for Lucy. I have never met her and have not talked to her during any of this. So I can only hope that she sees how many more of us there are than those who would seek to use terrorist tactics to silence someone.

And I am filled with gratitude to all the people from all across the country who helped make #FierceFlores a trend on twitter and who shared and forwarded the posts and photos I was putting out. It made me realize how rich I am in friends and colleagues. It proved true that old adage that you reap what you sow. I like to think that over the years, I have sown a lot of good seeds — good energy that made its way back to me last week.

What a crazy week! I don’t know if I will ever again be a part of something that big. I don’t know if I managed to really make a difference. It feels like maybe the answer is yes. But how do you ever know?

My husband was ribbing me and said it’s going to be hard to go back to my normal blog hit-counts and a normal week’s work schedule. I’m not so sure. As much as I’m glad that I may have brought some comfort to Lucy Flores, I won’t miss the glare of the (indirect) spot-light. I’m much  more comfortable sitting behind the computer screen, plunking away at my keys, and doing what I do. Same as it ever was.

Feminist Files: It’s a jungle out there

Is it something in the air?

  • If you think there is no War on Women, you haven’t been paying attention to the full-scale attack on Planned Parenthood — which is nothing short of an indictment on women’s reproductive health care. And it’s not just about PP, people. The GOP is willing to let pregnant women die to make a point. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are, once again, standing up for women here in Nevada and have filed a lawsuit against the TWO new personhood petition. Want to get involved? You can sign Planned Parenthood’s petition showing how many people oppose personhood laws.
  • PS: The War on Women is not stopping at abortion services and birth control. They’re going after sex ed, too.
  • Another front in the War on Women? Safety from violence. Last week the Topeka City Council voted 7-3 to end their laws against domestic violence because prosecuting such cases is too costly. Did they miss the memo that October is Domestic Violence Awareness month? We can’t allow budget cuts to dictate the importance of a woman’s life. Allowing domestic violence to go unabated is tantamount to saying that women are second-class citizens, unworthy of protection under the law. You can do something by signing the Care petition.
  • Actor Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock in the relaunched Star Trek movie franchise (you know it will be, just accept it), came out in a New York Magazine article this weekend, just days after National Coming Out Day. On his own blog, Quinto said that he was motivated to come out after Jamey Rodemeyer killed himself only months after making an It Gets Better video. ‘[I]t became clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it – is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality….”
  • Speaking (indirectly) of bullying, HRC has a Stand Up Against Bullying campaign in which they are encouraging people to wear purple on Thursday (Oct. 20).
  • And that’s just one day after the NOW’s 14th annual Love Your Body Day on Wednesday (Oct. 19). There’s never been a better time to change the dialogue about our bodies and our self worth — for ourselves and our daughters.
  • While we’re at it, don’t forget about the Sex/uality film event at UNLV on Saturday (Oct. 22).
  • And because I like to leave it on a positive note, here’s the Ms. Blog’s Top 10 on their 100 Best Non-Fiction list. How many have you read?

Sex ed homework

This is a press release from Planned Parenthood that I thought was interesting:


Planned Parenthood of Southern Nevada Launches Activities Around October’s Let’s Talk Month

LAS VEGAS — Eighty-two percent of parents have talked to their children about topics related to sex and sexuality, according to a new poll released today. However, when it comes to the tougher, more complicated topics, many adolescents are not getting the support they need to delay sex and prevent pregnancy.

The national poll, “Let’s Talk: Are Parents Tackling Crucial Conversations about Sex?” shows that parents talk to their kids about a wide range of sexuality-related topics, including relationships (92 percent) and their own values about when sex should or should not take place (87 percent).

However, fewer parents are talking with their kids about tougher, more complicated topics. Only 74 percent are talking about how to say no to sex, and while 94 percent believe they are influential in whether their child uses condoms or other forms of birth control, only 60 percent are talking with their children about birth control.

This new finding underscores the importance of October’s Let’s Talk Month, which encourages parents to talk to their children about sex and sexual health.

“We often hear from parents in cities and towns throughout our affiliate who say they are uncomfortable talking about the harder topics, such as birth control and how to say no, and that they could use help having these conversations,” said Laura Deitsch, program manager for PPSN. “That’s why Let’s Talk Month is so crucial. We can help parents lay the groundwork early and talk to their kids often and openly.”

The nationally representative survey commissioned by the national office of Planned Parenthood and the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health (CLAFH) at the Silver School of Social Work at NYU, conducted by Knowledge Networks, also found that:

  • Forty-three percent of parents say they feel very comfortable talking with their children about sex and sexual health. However, 57 percent say they only feel somewhat comfortable or uncomfortable talking to their children about sex and sexual health.
  • Ninety-three percent of parents feel confident about their ability to influence whether or not their child has sex. However, most of those same parents — 64 percent — say their own mothers and fathers did a poor job educating them about sex and sexual health.
  • Parents overwhelmingly support sex education programs in high school and middle school, and believe that they should cover a range of topics, including birth control.

“This poll shows that parents are very concerned about keeping their kids safe and healthy. We also know from previous studies that young people whose parents effectively communicate about sex are more likely to delay sex, have fewer partners, and use contraception if they do have sex,” said Logsden. “But they also need clear guidance on how to make conversations about sex with their adolescent children effective.”

Planned Parenthood of Southern Nevada and its parent organization Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains is here for moms and dads to help them communicate effectively with their children about sexuality and sexual health. We offer short and long-term educational programs in addition to our ‘Talk is Power’ program which is intended for parents and youth serving professionals to work to develop skills around communicating with youth regarding sexuality. Each program is led and moderated by educators who are at the forefront of sexual health education. Everyday, Planned Parenthood’s team of trained educators reach people who have urgent life questions and want a safe, confidential, unbiased source to turn to for accurate information. Last year PPRM presented 1,104 educational presentations to almost 20,000 participants.

The “Let’s Talk: Are Parents Tackling Crucial Conversations about Sex?” poll, conducted by Knowledge Networks, is a probability-based random sample recruited and maintained by Knowledge Networks and represents 97 percent of U.S households. A random stratified nationally representative sample of 1,111 parents of children aged 10–18 was selected from panel participants. The poll was conducted from August 23 to August 29, 2011. The margin of error is +/- 3 percent.