Poetry About Reproductive Justice

HHR, “Stop Forced Sterilization,” c. Rachael Romero, San Francisco Poster Brigade, 1977, Georgia State University Library Exhibits, accessed September 21.

We offer three research poems on the theme of reproductive justice by Yamelin Jaquez. She wrote the poems below while a student at Lehigh University where she studied Journalism and Communications. Jaquez is originally from the Dominican Republic and raised in Philadelphia. She describes the process of researching and writing the poems.

This project incorporates poems regarding the history of the birth control pill, sterilization, and the experiments conducted on Puerto Rican woman.

I became interested in the topic after watching a documentary called “La Operación” on YouTube, which had a series of interviews with women who were used for these trials and experiments.

I started wondering how I would feel in that situation. After sympathizing with what they went through, I read books and articles including Through the Eyes of Rebel Women by Iris Morales, “The Eugenics Archives” by Nancy Ordover, and “The Birth Control Movement in Puerto Rico” by Iris Lopez.

After reading these pieces of literature and more, I started annotating and considering the most important information regarding the pill trials and the effects they had on the reproductive rights of women. After writing a paragraph or two summarizing information, I conveyed my reactions in poetry. It was great to dig deep into discoveries I made through research and present that information in a non-traditional format. Here are three of those research poems.

Adoption for Corruption

She laid there on the bed of El Yunque,
The bright-sunny days covered by the tropical winds of the North-Eastern Caribbean Sea.
The aroma of the Flor de Maga filled her,
And at one point,
She only belonged to the grainy sand and the tall palm trees.

She laid there in the middle of the battlefield between two empires.
Her cries to be released from her bonds were ignored.
Along with the loud cantos of her ancestors from the time they fell overboard.

There laid the blood spilled from the disputes of the never-ending fires.
“We are bringing you a ‘banner of Freedom,’” acclaimed by U.S. General Nelson Miles.
But to the country that was most successful, she was just the award.

She still laid there, thirsty without the taste of independence.
Because the superpower parent unwillingly just wanted to adopt another child. That child was her.
Structured by a strict agenda, dressed in false promises
Through the culture, there are faint memories that start to slowly become a blur.

In This Laboratory

I’m in a dark laboratory
Misinformed about the experiment
And now these scientists made a settlement
Testing my reproductive experience

I’m living in this world as a lab rat
Forced to take these pills that change my hormones
All these changes just create a cyclone
My head spins in a circle, it’s a war zone

Although I signed up for this
I didn’t understand their agenda
They are exploiting the poor, and one gender
Mixing the wrong ingredients in one blender

They test for their answers,
I’m a small variable to their equation
Always being used, like in this occasion
My body colonized, a new invasion

We might be the last Puerto Ricans on the planet

Ironically they love coming to our island.
Only for a short time.
They vacation their stress away,
Admire our aesthetic paradise, then count our population numbers
And consider it a crime.

We didn’t know, they never mentioned what they were planning.
But, we might be the last Puerto Ricans on the planet.
The women are given less than a choice.
Sterilization is more a trend.
As the year of ’74 creeps in
35% of the whole can’t bring an offspring
Is this really the end?

Did the big country of the West achieve its mission?
The numbers are less.
There are closed schools in Barrio Bocas, Palenque, and Quebraba.
Not enough children for the first grade.

Our own, being pushed to work in America
They are now packing.
Damn, we really might be the last Puerto Ricans on the planet.

Far more empty wombs with post-sterilization stress
This was the advertised way to survive.
We have lost hope in our own leaders of government
They let population control turn into a systematic genocide

Our drive now is to fight for what is right
And not get stuck in transit.
Because we won’t be the last Puerto Ricans on the planet.

These poems are part of the collection, Caribbean Connections: Puerto Rico.

La Operación