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Today, as we honor the life and legacy of César Chávez and National Farmworker Awareness Week comes to a close, there is still so much work to be done to ensure the health and dignity of farmworker communities.

My family was involved in the early fight for minimum wage and fair working conditions for farm workers and I later began my career as a labor organizer in the Rio Grande Valley. I know firsthand the importance of organizing in these communities.

Planned Parenthood shares César Chávez’s belief in fair treatment for everyone; we believe that all people and their families deserve to live a safe, healthy, empowered life regardless of where they live — no matter what.

As a reproductive health and rights organization, Planned Parenthood understands that health and environment are linked. We know that the decisions of what chemicals are in our environment impact everyone, but there is a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Moreover, we know that farm workers around the world continue to work and live in vulnerable conditions, where exposure to pesticides places them at risk of suffering from serious health problems — including reproductive health problems of women and men.

In the United States alone, these environmental hazards cause farm workers to suffer from more chemical-related injuries and illnesses than any other workforcenationwide. As a result, farm workers are faced with long-term reproductive health problems. Pesticides are known to be poisonous and carcinogenic and even in small increments pesticides have an impact on child and adolescent brain development. Due to low wages, many pregnant farm workers are forced to work until their babies are born — out of necessity. This exposure places them at risk of preterm births, low birth weight, and birth defects.

I am proud of the work being done by Planned Parenthood locally to build coalitions with farm worker organizations. Planned Parenthood of Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo has united with Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), Líderes Campesinas, and other advocates. Together, they have united and made demands for pesticide reform in a Farm Worker Bill of Rights. They recognize that everyone has the right to choose to parent safely without fears of physical and environmental harm and violence — regardless of where they live or work.

We continue to fight because for many, reproductive health problems are exacerbated by anti-immigration policies and practices — which is why we care deeply about advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, especially where many of our patients continue to be denied access to reproductive care due to their immigration status. In areas such as California, Texas, and Florida, where anti-immigration practices often coincide with anti-abortion sentiment, we are proud to serve everyone — regardless of immigration status. We fight to ensure that everyone can travel freely to access the care that they deserve.

Together with our local Planned Parenthood organizations we stand in solidarity with the farm worker organizations that continue to fight for just, equitable work conditions.

As we continue to be inspired by César Chávez’s legacy, we know that these structural inequalities can only be changed through collective actions - that’s why we are committed to working together with our partners to break down these barriers and to transform our world from one divided by disparities to a world united by health equity.

This op-ed was originally posted at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cecile-richards/celebrating-cesar-chavez_b_9582368.html

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