45th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade – Part 2
As part of a Lawyers Club blog series in celebration of the 45th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, I interviewed Marsela Rojas-Salas, Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Coordinator with El Programa Hispano Católico. Ms. Rojas-Salas will be receiving the first ever Audre Lorde Emerging Leader Award at the 45th Anniversary of Roe V. Wade Breakfast Celebration Breakfast hosted by the San Diego Coalition for Reproductive Justice on Friday, January 26, 2018. Below is a summary of my interview.
Marsela Rojas-Salas moved to San Diego in 2015 for graduate school and in the spring of 2016, furthered her activism with California Latinas for Reproductive Justice (CLRJ). With CLRJ, Rojas-Salas’s confidence in organizing began to grow. “The power of holding space for our traumas collectively, while organizing with and educating our community on reproductive justice issues was affirmed,” said Rojas-Salas.
Expanding the reproductive justice network has been critical to her role in the movement. This led to bringing No Más Bebes to San Diego State University, engaging students to become more critical of the history of sterilization against Latina immigrant women in Los Angeles. Rojas-Salas also co-facilitated a workshop on the differences between reproductive rights, health, and justice through the Women’s Resource Center.
In August of 2017, CLRJ staff hosted their first California Latinas Presente! in which members from the San Diego chapter recruited community members to join a Day of Action. CLRJ provided hands-on training on California's policy making process and effective policy advocacy strategies, followed by visits with federal and state legislators and their staff to discuss priority reproductive justice policy issues like the Gender Recognition Act, which passed in California!
Rojas-Salas wants readers to know that reproductive oppression and the resulting movement involves many overlapping societal factors. Reproductive oppression is represented through the forced sterilization of black, indigenous people of color in the 1960s and 1970s in Puerto Rico and Los Angeles; coerced sterilization of women in prisons that only recently ended in 2014; and the ways in which people with disabilities have been deemed unfit for parenthood.
Reproductive oppression is also illustrated by the ways in which the mainstream media portrays poor black women as “Welfare Queens,” and the children of undocumented women of color as “anchor babies” who seek to suck the system dry of its so-called benefits. Such stereotypes blame women of color for overpopulation and insufficient government funds, and thus, shape U.S. policy that is anti-immigrant, anti-black, and forces parents of color and their respective communities to struggle under capitalism.
Reproductive justice must also be about the right to have children and the right to raise youth in a world free of police brutality, environmental racism, sexual and gendered violence, homophobia and transphobia, violent detention centers and deportations, gentrification and displacement of communities of color, and so much more! This requires radical friendships, says Rojas-Salas. “For many of us, our politics and our activism are intimately tied to cultivating radical friendships with women, femmes, queer, and trans folks of color,” and many more.
When asked, “What are the best ways for attorneys and law students to help?” Marsela replied, “Utilize a reproductive justice lens in your work. There is an organization called “If/When/How” that supports law students in creating reproductive justice chapters on campus and even provides online toolkits on various issues such as reproductive justice in the prison system, women of color and the struggle for reproductive justice, reproductive justice for LGBTQ folks, as well as a chapter leader guide.”
Tracy Rogers is an appellate lawyer specializing in criminal appeals and wrote this as the Lawyers Club liaison to the San Diego Reproductive Justice Coalition.