politics

This Latina Lawmaker Is Fighting To Make Medication Abortions Available On California Public University Campuses

If California state Sen. Connie M. Leyva has her way, students of “The Golden State’s” four-year public universities will have access to abortion medication on campus.

Last year, Leyva introduced “The College Student Right to Access Act,” also known as SB 320, which would require the 34 University of California and California State University campuses to provide medication abortions in their health care centers. On Jan. 29, the state Senate passed the bill by a vote of 25 to 13, leaving it to the state Assembly, which is expected to vote on it later this spring.

“[This bill] is essential because medication abortions have to be administered in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, and most women don’t realize they’re pregnant till they’re about five-to-six weeks along,” Leyva, a Chino Democrat representing the 20th state Senate District, told Fierce. “So this is about making sure they have access and are comfortable on campus. It’s about them not having to go out. It’s more convenient for them and a way to save them money, because it can be very expensive to go off campus for the procedure.”

A medication abortion, more commonly called the “abortion pill,” is a safe, two-step process in which someone seeking to terminate an early pregnancy takes the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol, with one administered at a doctor’s office and the other at their home 24-to-48 hours later. The method is considered so harmless that, despite 34 states requiring that a licensed physician be present to provide the medication, the World Health Organization has determined that telemedicine abortions are safe.

The idea behind the bill came from a group of students at the University of California, Berkeley in 2016. Adiba Khan, co-founder of her school’s Students United for Reproductive Justice (SURJ) organization, noticed that while the university’s Tang Center provided various forms of contraception, including birth control pills, condoms and the morning-after pill, and though the students’ health insurance included abortion coverage, medical abortion wasn’t an option on-campus.

Khan, identifying the challenges that students with unwanted pregnancies face — like missing class and work to seek the procedure off-campus and spending additional funds to commute — drafted a resolution for the undergraduate student body that called on the Tang Center to provide medication abortions. It eventually caught the attention of The Women’s Foundation of California, an Oakland-based group dedicated to achieving gender, racial and economic justice, which brought the resolution to Leyva.

“The young voices are the future. They will change the world,” the lawmaker said. “I like to joke that our young people will change the world that we screwed up. They know! They are on the frontlines. They know what’s important to them, so it’s critically important for us to listen to them.”

The Hyde Amendment bars federal funds from paying for abortion procedures, so no taxpayer money could support the measure should it pass. Instead, a group of private funders, including the Women’s Foundation of California, which has agreed to supply at least $14 million, and the Tara Health Foundation, have agreed to pay for training and equipment.

“Women go to college to try to get an education and better themselves, so that they can go out and make money and have a family, if they so choose. So when you find yourself in a situation where you’re pregnant, and it’s unwanted because it’s just not the right time, this would give you the option to stay on campus and have a medical abortion, which is a much easier procedure than a surgical abortion,” Leyva said.

Elected to represent the 20th State Senate District, which includes Bloomington, Chino, Colton, Fontana, Grand Terrace, Montclair, Muscoy, Ontario, Pomona, Rialto and San Bernardino, in 2014, Leyva has long supported women’s rights. She introduced a bill requiring law enforcement agencies and forensic laboratories to quickly analyze and test rape kit evidence, sponsored a bill that eliminated the statute of limitation for rape and co-authored a bill that called for pro-choice license plates to help fund reproductive health care, among more.

Should SB 320 become law, Leyva would like for it to act as a model for other states facing attacks on reproductive rights.

“In California, it’s more critical than ever that we lead the way now. We have always led the way, but with this administration, we can get distracted by his tweets and the things he says and miss what’s happening around the country with women: States are rolling back reproductive rights. So California is in a critical time to step forward and make sure women’s rights are protected,” she said.

At the heart of her bill is access, for all young people, regardless of income and race, to receive a necessary, legal and safe procedure in a setting that is comfortable and stigma-free.

“My hope is that by making this available on campus, all students will understand this is a part of life and a choice women have the ability to make,” she said.

Read: A Pill That Can Be Purchased At Pharmacies Across Latin America Is Providing Women With Access To Safe Abortions

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This Latina Broke The Marathon World Record At Just 16 Years Old And We’re Starting To Think She’s A Super-Human

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This Latina Broke The Marathon World Record At Just 16 Years Old And We’re Starting To Think She’s A Super-Human

At 12, Blanca Ramirez broke a global marathon record. At 16, she’s running to top her only competition: herself.

In 2015, The La Puenta, Calif.-based teen became the youngest female runner to complete seven marathons in seven different continents, running in Rwanda, New Zealand, Paraguay, China, France and Antarctica.

Her interest in international marathons started when she was 10 years old. She had just completed a long-distance running race in Disneyland and was hungry for more. She told her dad she wanted to beat the world record, but he thought she was joking at first.

“It seemed like it was something impossible,” her father Dimas Ramirez told NBC News. “I told her to prove to me she could run a marathon. She ran a 5K, then a 10K and-a-half marathon and then I let her do the Los Angeles Marathon.”

After proving to her dad that she’s fully capable of running around the world, and beating records while she’s at it, the Mexican-American teen is doing it once more — this time with the accompaniment of her younger brother.

Jordan, 9, completed his first marathon in Australia at age 8. He then ran in Egypt, crossed Europe off his list when he did 26.2 miles in London and then took to Thailand. Now, he and his big sis are headed to Antarctica and then South America. He plans to finish off in the US next April.

For Blanca, who has already accomplished the task her brother faces, joining him has been a way to show support and have some fun competition.

“At the end, we try to have a competition of who can cross the finish line first, even though we’re standing next to each other,” she told KTLA 5. “So we can be still next to each other, but I’ll make sure my foot passes it first.”

As for their dad, he’s proud of both of his children meeting their goals — but he’s also looking forward to it for reasons of his own.

“Dad’s very exhausted and I need a break,” he said. “Or they need to pick another sport.”

Read: This Indigenous Woman From Mexico Ran An Ultramarathon In Huaraches Sandals And Won Big

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When I Moved Away From My Family For College I Started My Journey Of Becoming An Independent Latina

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When I Moved Away From My Family For College I Started My Journey Of Becoming An Independent Latina

When it came time to choose a college, I wanted to go as far away from home as possible. I love my family, but I knew that I needed to move out if I was ever going to be a truly independent person. Going across the country for school was the best and most frustrating experience of my life up to that point all at once. As a Latina going to college, I learned so much about myself, my family, and my culture that made it all worth it. Here are 20 important lessons from my college years.

1. We’re not in abuela’s kitchen anymore.

Credit: @simply_samantha/Instagram

In Los Angeles, I had access to Cuban food anywhere I wanted. My abuela would make me ropa vieja if I asked, and I could always get lechon and plantains delivered from our favorite restaurant. In Boston, there was no abuela and nowhere that delivered, and my scaredy-cat self certainly wasn’t going to take the subway alone to find what I wanted. Once I had access to a kitchen again, I learned how to make my favorites and more. It helped me feel connected to something familiar while I navigated the newness of college.

2. Community doesn’t just happen.

Credit: @bc_casa/Instagram

The Cuban-American Students’ Association was a godsend once I found it. Here were people who spoke like me, had families like mine, and got Cuban food for meetings. Seeking them out and getting involved with them took work, though, and I joined late in my college career. Had I found them earlier, I might have had a smoother transition to college.

3. Keeping in touch requires patience.

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I talked to my mom, grandma, great grandma, and anyone else who happened to be in the house at the time on a weekly basis. Telling the same stories over again and answering the same questions got old fast, and I had to learn how to be patient. They were trying to figure out this newfound independence as much as I was, and I couldn’t let their concern for every little detail bother me.

4. It also requires boundaries.

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Going to college meant that for the first time, I had way more control over boundaries. It took me a while, but eventually, I realized that I didn’t have to pick up the phone every time someone called – I could protect my time if I needed to and call back later. I also didn’t have to tell them everything, and while I don’t advocate lying to your family or withholding important information, it was nice to know that I wouldn’t get in trouble for staying out late as long as I chose not to share that. I felt less anxious and more in control of my decisions. 

5. Things slip through the cracks too easily if you don’t keep up.

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When my great aunt died, no one told me. We weren’t particularly close, but I was still shocked at the news when my dad casually brought it up one day. Everyone had assumed that someone else had mentioned it. I realized that if I wanted to be kept in the loop, I had to do the work to keep myself in it.

6. Dating is a whole lot easier when you’re far from home.

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Bringing boyfriends to meet my family always made me anxious. In college, I could go out with someone, and nobody would know. It helped me be more adventurous and relaxed. If the date went wrong, I wouldn’t have to retell all the gory details, and if it went well, he didn’t have to meet my parents if he dropped me off at home. I could keep it to myself, grow in the relationship, and then let everyone else in when I was ready.

7. I had to make my own decisions.

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Before college, it felt like I rarely made decisions on my own. I constantly had a committee of people around me to help me decide on everything from what to wear to which classes to take, and I had a weird fear of disappointing people by making the wrong choice. Sometimes I had college friends around to help, but sometimes, I was on my own, and it was paralyzing. Without people around to constantly validate my actions, I had to learn to trust myself more.

8. You always need some structure.

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After spending what felt like every Saturday cleaning the house and constantly operating on my family’s schedule, I loved the idea of having complete control over my own routines — which meant that for a long time, I didn’t have them. My “No parents! No rules!” attitude meant that I regularly slept with unfolded laundry at the foot of my bed and had a hard time remembering to take the trash out. My poor, poor roommate! Eventually, I knew I needed some structure, but I created it on my own terms.

9. Life requires some fearlessness.

Credit: @simply_samantha/Instagram

Growing up, I was always warned about the bad things that would happen if I went anywhere alone. “Sin chaperona, no!” was a common refrain. But in college, I learned how to be a little more fearless. I could take the subway by myself if I paid attention to my surroundings. I went to Italy for spring break — sin chaperona. Realizing I was capable of doing these “scary” things boosted my confidence and made me feel truly independent.

10. Being alone sometimes is a good thing.

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With three younger cousins, a little sister, and countless tias, tios, and people who were somehow related to me even if I didn’t know how time alone was scarce. I loved the noise – usually. College gave me my first opportunity to really spend time alone. Sometimes I enjoyed the quiet, and sometimes I made a beeline for the dining hall to just be around noise. Over time, I learned to really appreciate long stretches of time on my own more.

11. When it comes to language, “use it or lose it” is right.

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I went from speaking Spanish almost daily to almost never, and I lost so much vocabulary so quickly that I worried I’d lose it all. To me, speaking Spanish is a huge part of how I personally express my identity as a Latina, and the thought of losing that ability freaked me out. I spoke Spanish to everyone I possibly could and listened to a lot more Spanish-language music than ever before to make up for it. 

12. Being Latina was a bigger part of my identity than I realized.

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You know that bad joke about how vegans will always tell you they’re vegan as quickly as possible in a conversation? That was me, except I told everyone I was Cuban. Ev-er-y-one. It made me feel special and interesting, and as a freshman in a small New England college who walked in without a single friend, I craved those feelings. But I was also extremely proud to be a little bit different, and I realized just how much I loved my culture when I moved away from it.

13. Apparently, being Latina is “trendy.”

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Here’s the thing about being different: You also start to feel a little like an oddity. Most people asked questions about being Cuban that led to really great conversations, but some made me feel like I was on display. All things Cuban had been trendy for a few years, and sometimes it seemed like I was one of those things.

14. There are a lot of misconceptions about Latinidad out there.

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I found myself making a lot of corrections and introducing seemingly new perspectives in many of my conversations. No, Cuban food is not spicy, and no, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro are not “heroes” to all of us. People were shocked at the new information, and I was shocked at some of the broad generalizations I bumped into. I’d never assume that all food from all English-speaking countries was the same – so why did some people seem to think that Cuban was just another way to say Mexican?

15. Other parents had been as strict as mine.

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Trading stories with other Latinas about our childhoods was an amazing experience. You mean your mom called required phone calls home every hour on the hour when you were out, too? And you weren’t allowed to sleep over at certain people’s houses? My childhood wasn’t so strange, after all.

16. Other families were so similar to mine.

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Come to think of it, our entire families felt similar. From Nochebuena festivities and chismosa older family members to Vick’s as a cure-all and countless requests to “ponte un sueter,” I was amazed at how alike Cuban families from all over the country really were.

17. There was a lot about my culture that I didn’t know.

Credit: @bc_casa

Similar as we were, there was so much I didn’t know about what it meant to be Cuban. Other Cuban-American students used all kinds of slang I had never heard before, and when I said I had no idea what “El Burrito Sabanero” was, you could hear the gasps from down the hall. There was a lot to catch up on, and while I was happy to dive in, sometimes my lack of knowledge made me feel like a fake Latina.

18. Therapy is not a bad thing.

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It’s no secret that mental health in the Latinx community needs more attention, and because it’s never really discussed, it took me two and a half years before I took advantage of the free, on-campus counseling offered. I didn’t have to tell anyone I was going, which was one less thing to worry about, and it was a relief to have a way to talk about some issues I’d always wanted to address but didn’t really know how.

19. And I learned to handle stress.

Credit: @latinxtherapy/Instagram

Stress was the biggest issue for me to figure out. I had always been an incredibly anxious person, and everything seemed to have the potential to stress me out and totally ruin my day. I was on my own in college, and I needed to learn how to swim before I sank. It’s an ongoing process, but since going to therapy and really working to find a solution, I’m getting there

20. Now that I felt I had truly grown up, anything was possible.

Credit: @simply_samantha/Instagram

I know my family cares about me, and all of their questions, restrictions, and concern really do come from a place of genuine care. But going away to Boston for college – a time meant for learning, growing, and exploration – was the best thing I could have done for myself. It allowed me to grow and make mistakes away from watchful eyes and make decisions that were truly my own, rather than decisions made out of fear of disappointing people. It helped me grow into a more independent person who felt confident and knew she could be a capable adult, and it was totally worth the lack of Cuban food to get there.

Read: Get It, Ma! These Are The Latina Artists Nominated For The 2019 Grammys

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