Our Organizing Work

Building Reproductive Justice & Defending Access to Reproductive Healthcare

At Young Women United we are building communities where all people have access to the information, education and resources needed to make thoughtful decisions about their bodies and lives. This means that we organize and build policy efforts at the intersections of people’s identities and lived experiences, to advance a range of reproductive justice issues.

Our Campaigns:

respect abq women

Defending Access to Reproductive Healthcare

YWU organizes so that women and their families continue to access a full range of reproductive health care services in New Mexico. We know that young women and women of color are most impacted by attempts to limit access to reproductive health care. In our strategies for creating change,  YWU centers the voices  of New Mexican young women and women of color at decision making tables and in important policy conversations that impact our communities.

During New Mexico’s legislative sessions, we have worked alongside Coalition for Choice partners to successfully defeat against attacks on abortion, family planning and reproductive health care. YWU continues to ensure that the experiences, perspectives and analyses of New Mexico’s young women of color are heard and considered in our legislative sessions and other decision making spaces. YWU was a critical player in securing state standards and benchmarks for comprehensive sex education required in all New Mexico schools, and mandating health education as a high school graduation requirement. As New Mexico’s only Reproductive Justice organizing project, YWU has worked to position ourselves as local, statewide and national Reproductive Rights and Justice movement leaders.

Youth Health Access

Improving the access young people have to quality reproductive health care





Young Parents

De-stigmatizing young families and building policies towards educational equality for pregnant and parenting teens

At Young Women United we know that all families deserve respect, trust and recognition. In communities across New Mexico, many of our families are raised by young parents. People of all ages should have access to the education, information and resources needed to make real decisions about their own bodies and lives, including the decision to parent.

The stigma and judgement too often directed at young parents pushes these individuals away from support and resources that all families need to thrive. The negative depictions of young parents and their children that are used in pregnancy prevention models isolate young families and often do not reflect their experiences. At Young Women United we believe that all parents have a future and that all families matter.

Education is an important foundation for all strong and healthy families; young parents should not have to choose between being a good parent and being a good student. In 2012 Young Women United, alongside young parents from all over the state, passed  SM 25 establishing a New Mexico Day in Recognition of Young Parents (August 25th). With bipartisan support in the 2013 legislative session, YWU, NM GRADS, young parents and allied partners worked to pass HB 300, which created a statewide excused absence policy for pregnant & parenting students.

supmImproving access to prenatal care and treatment for substance using pregnant women while pushing back on the stigma, judgement, and criminalization of their families

Pregnant women who are substance using are at a dangerous intersection of difficult to navigate medical and criminal justice systems. At Young Women United we understand addiction to be a disease, with causes rooted in historical trauma and exaggerated by realities including racism and poverty.

Women who are substance using and pregnant too often face shame and stigma that pushes them and their families away from resources and into the shadows. Mothers struggling with addiction are often judged and told they must love their drugs more than their kids or that if they really loved their kids they would simply stop using.

YWU is proud to organize alongside women who have been pregnant and using at the same time. We understand that these women carry expertise and insight critical to building a future that our communities desperately need.

From 2010-2012 YWU was part of HM 14 Task Force to improve outcomes for families with substance use in pregnancy, and co-authored final Task Force report. In 2013 we facilitated working groups with 30 women that had been pregnant and using at the same time, our report Everyday Struggles, Everyday Strength captures the voices of women living the pregnancy and addiction.

On Mother’s Day 2014 we will launch a new public education campaign, “We are More than Addiction”. YWU is proud to have worked alongside 12 women who have been pregnant and using at the same time, through a 5 week art and organizing institute. Together, using art and media, we are elevating the strength and resiliency of our communities and shedding light on the lived realities of our families.

Mamas-Justice-webImproving women of color’s access to a wide range of birth options while promoting birth and parenting justice

Young Women United engages in policy and advocacy efforts to improve the access that low income and pregnant people of color have to midwifery care, as well as improve breastfeeding rates in our New Mexico communities.

At Young Women United, we believe every person has a right to decide if, when, how, where, and with whom to birth and/or parent. In our state, a pregnant person can decide which birthing options are healthiest for themselves and their families. This means that in New Mexico, a family can legally receive maternity care at home, a birth center or in a hospital. Medicaid covers all these options.

Working from evidence based research that shows homebirth to be a safer option for low to normal risk pregnancies;[1] we hold a pregnant person’s access to a full range of birth options to be a fundamental issue of reproductive justice. New Mexico is considered to be a homebirth friendly state with a midwife designed licensure process that includes direct entry or accredited educational pathways to licensure, and Medicaid payment for births at home or in a birth center. Today, many who would most benefit from the midwifery model of care are often uninformed about birth options in our state, and do not know birth at home or a birth center to be a safe, affordable, and legal option for our communities.

The implementation of the Affordable Care Act and Insurance Exchange, Medicaid Expansion, and Centennial Care (NM’s re-designed Medicaid program to be implemented in January 2014) will have an impact on the ways low income and pregnant people of color access midwifery care. These shifts in our healthcare systems of coverage and delivery provide an incredible opportunity to improve the access to midwifery care for our communities.

YWU also advocates for improved access to midwifery and improved breastfeeding rates in our communities by holding a leadership position on the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force.

[1] BMJ 2005; 330: 1416. Outcomes of Planned Homebirths with Certified Professional Midwives; Large Perspective Study in North America