Interview with National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH)

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) is an organization that focuses on abortion access, reproductive health disparities and immigration reform. You can find out more by visiting their website.

Our editors conducted the following interview with Maria Elena Perez, Director of Community Mobilization.

RE/VISIONIST: In what ways does NLIRH specifically address the Latina community?

Maria Elena Perez: The mission of NLIRH is to ensure the fundamental human right to reproductive health and justice for Latinas, their families and their communities through community mobilization, policy advocacy and research. Our priority areas are abortion access, immigration reform, and reproductive health disparities. Within community mobilization, which is the area I oversee, we cultivate the leadership of a diverse group of Latinas across the country through our Latinas Organizing for Leadership and Advocacy (LOLA) Trainings, which give birth to our Latina Advocacy Networks (LANs). The LANs organize and engage in grassroots advocacy efforts on both local/state based and national issues that directly impact their communities. And when I say diverse, our base is truly reflective of the diversity within our community with respect to country of origin, language, urban vs. rural communities, class, education, etc.

R/V: Do you strive to build coalitions with other groups that are also organizing for reproductive justice?

MEP: The reproductive justice framework holds as a core tenet the concept of intersectionality, which maintains that reproductive oppression is a result of multiple, intersecting oppressions like racism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, etc. To achieve reproductive justice we must therefore, take into account the intersecting social justice issues. So, while we at NLIRH strive to build coalitions with other reproductive health, rights and justice groups, we also prioritize building alliances with Latino/immigrant civil rights groups and other social justice groups to integrate a reproductive justice analysis and agenda into their work.

R/V: What challenges do you face as a national organization? How do you address the needs of such a diverse population?

MEP: I think one of the challenges is not so much one that comes with being a national organization, but it’s more about our need to be really strategic given our capacity and resources. We’re a national organization with only 11 staff doing all this work. By organizing our work into three priority areas we’re able to focus the scope of our work, but it’s also about building a base with Latinas on the ground, because after all, they are the ones that need be at the center of this movement.

R/V: How can our readers get involved with NLIRH?

MEP: The easiest way to get involved with NLIRH is to go to our website to sign up to receive our e-newsletter Instantes and action alerts. Also, people can get the latest updates and news by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

R/V: What is the most significant threat to reproductive justice today?

MEP: I would say that right now, women’s rights are deeply under attack in a way not seen in many years. The House has made it well known through recent anti-choice, anti-women bills, like the Smith Bill (HR 3), Pitts bill (HR 358) and the Pence Amendment (an amendment to the federal spending bill), that rolling back women’s rights is a priority, instead of focusing on such things like the economy and job creation. In addition, immigrant women are the central targets of recent anti-immigrant policies, including Arizona’s SB 1070 and the latest efforts to change birthright citizenship, which would deny citizenship to children born in this country to undocumented women. We are being attacked on all fronts, which requires a more coordinated and rapid response. ▢

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