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Thursday, May 30, 2013

CENSORED at La Leche League Conference

By Carol Downer

[Note: Carol Downer attended "LA LECHE LEAGUE OF SO. CA/NV Supporting a Breastfeeding Culture, A Parenting & Healthcare Professional Conference”, May 24-26, 2013 at the Marriott Newport Beach (CA) Hotel & Spa]

SUMMARY: We were censored!  Although we had cleared all our materials in advance, we were informed at the last minute that we would not be able to display any literature or items that dealt with birth control or abortion.  I stayed despite these limitations and talked to many wonderful women, and spread the word about Self-Help, our women’s clinics and the Pro-Woman Agenda.  I found new friends and allies, resources and gave away over 20 speculums!

ATTENDEES: Based on the high number of small children at the conference, many in the care of their fathers, I concluded that most of the attendees are breastfeeders, and that they were either LLL “leaders” (they volunteer and facilitate the monthly meetings of breastfeeding moms).  There were also a number of midwives, doulas, lactation consultants, childbirth educators, nurses.   

I put out a call for support to come with me to set up my table, but unfortunately it was too late to get anything more than moral support.  Fortunately, the moral support that results from a women’s health movement from the last 40 years and the work that we have collectively done to fight for women’s rights to birth control and abortion strengthened me to walk into a environment hostile to women’s rights to birth control and abortion that WHWH stands for and achieve a amicable resolution with the conference organizers.  I removed from the table about one-half the items with “birth control” or “abortion” on them (including A New View of a Woman’s Body and the Del’em and pictures of the female condom) and in their place, I posted signs saying “CENSORED”.   The organizers told me that U.N. regulations prohibits La Leche League from mentioning birth control or abortion.  Other than this limitation, they were quite cordial and helpful.

Many women, especially those who appeared past childbearing years, turned down the offer of the speculum with “I don’t need that”.  Some said that they already had a speculum (usually midwives) or that they already used one.  A few women didn’t know what the speculum was.  The 20 women that took away speculums were delighted.

Only 9 women signed the guestbook.  It seems that people are trying to keep the number of incoming e-mails down (I know that I’ve become reluctant to be on someone’s e-mailing list).  One of them, Mary Strack, is a founder of La Leche League, and very kindly offered to keep in touch with me and share what she has learned about the international breastfeeding situation; she is LLL’s international representative.  Likewise, Betty Crase, who wrote The Motherly Art of Breastfeeding” also agreed with the key words on the display [FULL SPECTRUM = PRO-WOMAN AGENDA].

After giving the visitor a copy of my card with the website info, I summed up our message, “We believe it’s important for the women’s health movement to work together on all the interrelated issues concerning women’s sexuality and reproductive rights”.  Many expressed wholehearted agreement.

Our 3 leaflets, “What to expect When You Go To The Hospital fora Natural Childbirth” by Molly Remer, “Shodhini” announcement and Cedar RiverClinics’s “Fertility Awareness for Birth Control” (Yes, they did allow that one) were popular.  The Shodhini leaflet caught the interest of a substantial number of women.  I found it very interesting that of these women, many were Latina.  Although I don’t know all the social forces that are at play, in Southern California at least, there is a upsurge of interest in learning more about our bodies and networking with other women among Latinas.  I predict that Shodhini will be getting calls.

In addition to booths with literature from organizations that promote breastfeeding, or offered products to facilitate breastfeeding, there were several homeschooling booths, health and beauty products, and toys.  I was especially interested in one booth, “The Daily Grind”, run by two sisters who are trapeze artistes who were with Le Cirque du Soleil.  They have devised stretches and exercises to be done during the daily routine. I’m going to try to get together a group to put our money together to bring them from Mar Vista to Eagle Rock to demonstrate these to us and to help us to learn how to do them properly.

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