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Entries in reproductive justice (5)


Moon Blood Magic with La Loba Loca 

Summary of the "Moon Blood Magic" Salon Series with La Loba Loca

Click to read more ...


Placenta Justice: A Call To Recognize The Placenta

Today we have a guest post from Kelly Gray, a mother, full spectrum doula, childbirth educator and one of the founders of the Bay Area Doula Project. She grew up as a union organizer for public sector healthcare workers and has a passion for redefining healthcare access, models and justice. When she's not helping women take charge of their reproductive lives, she's guiding her fiery daughter to harness her innate powers or collecting reproductive stories for her audio website  Stories From The Womb.  You can read more about her childbirth education classes or doula work at or find out how to have your placenta encapsulated at Bay Area Full Circle Placenta Services.

Placenta Justice: A Call To Recognize The Placenta

By Kelly Gray


Justice, by definition, allows us to create a system that upholds individual or cultural conduct defined by morals or equitable behavior.

In the reproductive justice movement we examine access to services and deem any obtrusion to choice, access, or service as unjust. We work to create inclusion for all people and all experiences. And rightly so! Currently, 1-3 women die in hospital births every day and this number is primarily made up of poor women and women of color. We see these injustices played out psychologically and physiologically, from forced cesareans and sterilizations, withholding abortions, lack of midwifery care or informed consent, bullying, needless interventions, withholdings based on gender and racial stereotyping, and so on. Thus, we should aim to hold the same lens to all reproductive experiences, including the often ignored birth and after life of a placenta.

The majority of American people have hospital births where interventions are high and compassionate care is low, despite recent studies that confirm that more interventions do not lead to healthier outcomes for fetal, infant or maternal health. Sadly, it seems that the medical industry’s approach to birth is too much “care” in the form of interventions at inappropriate times, and lack of compassionate care when it matters most, such as quality time with a provider, home visits, adequate education about choices, and collaborative decision making. Following hospital birth, the standard model of care is to discard the placenta even though there is potential for the placenta to greatly heal the postpartum body and in turn support the infant.

A placenta printWhat exactly is this placenta and what purpose does it serve prior to birth? Placentas are created in utero alongside the fetus. The placenta lines the uterine walls and partially envelops the baby while blood, oxygen and nutrients flow between mother and child. Fetal waste material is filtered and sent away. Essentially, the placenta acts as liver and lungs for the baby until the time of birth, and then, even after birth for a few minutes if the umbilical cord is left intact. The placenta is born following the infant as the uterus continues to contract and shrink back to its original size. This is true of all mammals. What is also true of all mammals (except camels), despite access to food, shelter or protection, is that they immediately consume their placenta following birth.

As mentioned earlier, our current birth culture spends very little time discussing, studying, or practicing the benefits of proper placenta birth techniques (cord traction, manual removal, etc.), the emotional benefits of keeping the placenta, and the physiological and emotional benefits of consuming the placenta. Despite the longstanding tradition within Traditional Chinese Medicine of placenta consumption, Western medicine has done little research into the effects of eating placenta for new mothers. However, if you talk to mothers, midwives, many OBs, doulas and other birth workers who have consumed placenta, it becomes clear that there is an incentive to do so; a healthy and peaceful mom equals a healthy and peaceful baby equals a healthy and peaceful community and so on.

Placentas contain vital nutrients that replenish a mother’s depleted postpartum body. The placenta, dense with blood, hormones and minerals, completes the birth cycle and restores iron and hormone levels. Mothers report increases in milk production and energy while at the same time a decrease in anemia, fatigue and postpartum depression. 

As individuals and as a society we pay greatly when mothers can’t successfully breastfeed their children; we pay in present time with lactation consultants and gear, and we pay big money to the formula industry. In 2008, taxpayers paid $627 million for WIC, a federal program that distributes half of the formula in the country to low income women. The potential increase in milk production resulting from the consumption of one's placenta could have many positive impacts for low-income mothers who are often targeted aggressively by the formula industry.

The birth and consumption of ones placenta should be given the honor to stand on its own as an individual reproductive experience. It marks the visible connection between the watery in utero world and the world that exists between mother and child. It is the last stage of birth, and one of the first stages of new parenting. When we lack tradition and healthy practices around reproductive experiences then we lack justice. When we lack connection to our own bodies and hand over the keys to industries based on creating financial capital then we lack justice.

Not every person should consume their placenta. There are reasons, such as infection or medications administered during birth, where the consumption of placenta is not advised. It is a choice that every person should make for themselves, based on intuition, desires, culture and health.

Our hospitals' hazardous waste bins are filled with organs that bring love, life and health into the world that new families inhabit, so each and every time someone gives birth the question should be, “Would you like to take home your placenta?” That would be reproductive justice in action. Despite income disadvantages, education disparities, and health outcomes, one thing we know is that after every baby comes a placenta, and this is an opportunity to engage the mother with her own health, vitality, and reproductive experience.

Additional Reading:

Bay Area Full Circle Placenta Services

"Rates of labor induction and primary cesarean delivery do not correlate with rates of adverse neonatal outcome in level I hospitals" (Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine)

"Study Finds Adverse Effects of Pitocin in Newborns" (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)

"Masking Maternal Mortality" (Ina May Gaskin)

"Market Failure and the Poverty of New Drugs in Maternal Health" (PLOS Medicine)

"Infant-Formula Companies Milk U.S. Food Program" (Women's eNews)


Notes From The Salon: Full Spectrum Advocacy

Last Tuesday, May 28 the Bay Area Doula Project held our monthly Salon Series event, "Full Spectrum Advocacy: A review of current bills in the California Legislature that affect your body & your community." This event featured four panelists discussing some of the reproductive health and justice related bills currently in the California legislature, and how we can make an impact on the passage of these bills. 

Lupe Rodríguez, Director of Public Affairs at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte started off the evening with the following definition of reproductive justice from EMERJ (Expanding the Movement for Empowerment and Reproductive Justice): "Reproductive justice exists when all people have the social, political, and economic power and resources to make healthy decisions about our gender, bodies, and sexuality for ourselves, our families, and our communities."

Three reproductive justice focused bills were discussed by our panelists: AB 1308, AB 271, and AB 154. 

Treesa McLean, a Licensed Midwife (LM) who has been serving Bay Area families for 30 years, spoke on AB 1308, a bill that will clarify midwifery educational paths in California, make Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) able to precept student midwives in the LM track, and allow LMs to order medications and devices they use within their scope of practice. Treesa spoke on how reproductive justice is allowing people to give birth the way they want, for example, vaginal births after a Caesarean section.

For more information on AB 1308 and to take action, visit the website of California Families for Access to Midwives, a "statewide, nonprofit coalition committed to ensuring that all California families have access to safe, affordable midwifery care."


Sierra Harris, Assistant Director of ACCESS Women's Health Justice spoke about AB 271, which will repeal the Maximum Family Grant rule. As explained on the ACCESS website, "Under current California law, infants born into families receiving CalWORKS assistance are denied cash aid- this is known as the Maximum Family Grant (MFG) rule. This law endangers the health and wellbeing of infants born into poverty, while purposely limiting the reproductive choices and violating the privacy of low-income women. AB 271 would repeal the MFG rule to provide for the basic needs of newborn children while allowing women to make family planning decisions."

Click here to learn more about AB 271 and sign up for a listserv of updates. 

Also check out this article by Elena R. Gutierrez, PH.D, "Bringing Families Out of 'Cap'tivity: the Need to Repeal the CalWORKS Maximum Family Grant Rule.

The third bill discussed at Tuesday's event was AB 154, which will reduce barriers to reproductive health care by allowing trained nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants to perform early aspiration abortions. Ashley Morris of the ACLU of Northern California told us more about this bill. Currently, over 50% of California counties lack an abortion provider (check out this map showing where providers are located in CA). By increasing the number of available abortion providers and allowing mid-level practitioners already working in these communities to perform abortions, AB 154 will help increase abortion access in these areas and others around the state.

In exciting news, on Tuesday this bill was passed in the Assembly, 48-24, and is now headed to the Senate! Read more about the bill and its passage in the Assembly in this article.

For more information and to take action, sign up here on the ACLU's website.

This informative and inspiring event came to a close with this interesting graphic from Lupe Rodríguez about how a bill becomes a law. 

Thank you so much to all our panelists for sharing your knowledge about these important bills and explaining how to get involved in shaping reproductive health and justice policy. Be sure to visit the links above for more information on all of these bills and to learn more about taking action!


Assembly Bill 154 addresses the current shortage of health care professionals able to provide early abortion care in Californi

by Ruby Warnock

Last week AB 154, sponsored by Assemblymember Toni Atkins, was approved by the Assembly Business and Professions Committee. The bill addresses the current shortage of health care professionals able to provide early abortion care in California. Under the bill, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and nurse-midwives would be able to perform aspiration abortions after receiving training.

A recent six-year study led by UCSF's ANSIRH and published in the American Journal of Public Health showed that trained nurse practitioners, midwives and physicians assistants can provide early abortions as safely as physicians and that women greatly appreciate receiving care in their own communities.

The bill states, “According to the Guttmacher Institute, 52% of California counties lack an abortion provider (removing hospitals, which typically provide a small number of procedures for medical and fetal indications).” The approval of the bill would improve access to quality care for countless women in the state.

Currently in the United States, state regulations determine who can provide abortions, with several states specifically prohibiting non-physician clinicians from performing the procedure. Currently only four states allow non-physician to perform medication and aspiration abortions, and this landmark bill would make California the fifth!


Regulations around abortion providers in the U.S. (American Journal of Public Health)

Make sure to tell your Legislator you support the bill!


Notes From The Salon: Situating Adoption in the Reproductive Justice Movement

 By Sarah Whedon, BADP doula and blogger

I was so moved by the vulnerable, honest storytelling around adoption at the Salon on Situating Adoption in the Reproductive Justice Movement.

The evening's discussions focused on the experiences of birth mothers, and framed adoption as a reproductive choice.  We heard from Susan Collins about the experience of relinquishing her eldest son; from Gretchen Sisson about her sociological research into birth mothers' experiences; and from Randie Bencannan about her work as Co-Director of Adoption Connection, a pro-choice, open adoption agency.


Gretchen opened the evening with a disclaimer that the topic was far too big to be covered in a short evening, and that language around adoption is often tricky.  Since the topic is new to me, I hope I'll be forgiven if I misstep with my language here.


Susan's story really brought home for me the intensely personal experience of birthing and relinquishing a baby.  I won't attempt to re-tell a story that belongs to her, but I'll share what she said were some things that that helped her on her path: she had a choice; she had good counseling including after placement; she was able to explore a lot of information; and her counselor strongly encouraged her not to make any final decisions until after the baby was born.
"My adoption experience is more than a moment in time. It's woven in to my life." - Susan
Gretchen then put Susan's story into historical and sociological context.  She said that pre-Roe adoptions were nearly all closed and coerced, and that these were traumatic experiences for the birth mothers. Before Roe about 20% of unplanned pregnancies resulted in this kind of adoption.


After Roe adoption numbers dropped a lot, but adoptions still remained closed. Adoption started shifting to semi-open in the mid 80s, and today most adoptions are at least partially open, generating new ways of thinking about family.


According to Gretchen, birth mothers considering relinquishing their babies are often in circumstances (money, age, relationship status) that will change later, so she raised the question: to what extent are these good reasons and to what extent should activists work to change the external factors so birth mothers can choose to parent? Most women Gretchen has spoken with said that under different circumstances they would have kept their babies.


Randie explained that her agency does 100% some form of open adoption. She said that, "It would be deceptive to say that open adoption takes away grief," but that it is generally better for parents and especially children to live with a sense of honesty and knowledge about where they came from.


Randie said coerced relinquishment is something they are very careful to steer away from, and she can sleep at night knowing that women don't give up their babies if it doesn't feel right to them.


I am grateful to the Salon organizers and presenters for creating a context where I could learn a great deal about adoption. For me, questions remain about how doulas can best bring compassionate care to all parties in an adoption. Have you done adoption doula work?




 Want to learn more? Check out Adoption Connection's Blog Post about the event.