Every year on March 8th, we celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women – past, present and future. While every day should be International Women’s Day, today marks the day that we celebrate ordinary women as makers of herstory — a “day rooted in the centuries-old struggle of women to participate in society on an equal footing with men,” the United Nations says. (more…)
Archive for the ‘civic engagement’ Category
The ongoing effort to reform our health care system received a shock on Tuesday with Scott Brown’s upset win against Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts Senate election race to replace the late Edward M. Kennedy Jr.. This means that Democrats no longer have the filibuster-proof 60-seat majority to pass health care reform as planned, and are currently in the process of re-assessing their efforts and strategies.
Several options have been put forward, but it is as-of-yet unclear what strategy will prevail. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has already announced that the House will not adopt the Senate bill, a strategy that would have avoided another vote in the Senate. The Senate version of the health care reform legislation includes the problematic Nelson-Casey provision that would place tremendous bureaucratic obstacles for abortion to be included in insurance packages in the Exchange. Additionally, the Senate bill would not allow undocumented persons to purchase health insurance from the Exchange with their own money. Another option, one put forward by President Obama, would be to pass a smaller, pared-down bill that encompasses some “core elements” of the reforms currently being proposed. Yet another option would rely on the budget reconciliation process. What has become clear, however, is that lawmakers are operating under different circumstances than they were before the Massachusetts election results.
Staff from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) visited the offices of key legislators this week, and we will continue to work towards the best possible package. Legislators said they have received a record number of phone calls and letters from our activists on the ground and in their districts. We must sincerely thank you for your support and continued hard work – your voices are being heard.
As we commemorate the 37th Anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, it is critical for us to advance a national reproductive justice agenda. We will continue to update you as this situation develops, and continue to demand that health care reform not be passed on the backs of women and immigrants. ¡Que siga la lucha!
The NLIRH staff
P.S. Check out some of our recent media hits related to health care reform!
RH Reality Check: “Securing Real Choices Means Going Beyond “Choice”
Silvia Henriquez, NLIRH Executive Director on GritTV
Houston Chronicle: “Now is the time for Latinas to speak up!”
New York Times Letter to the Editor by Silvia Henriquez
Throughout this health care reform fight, women of color have been organizing and telling Congress what we need for health care reform. Our voices have never been more crucial.
On October 27, 2009, the Women of Color United for Health Reform, a coalition led by the Black Women’s Health Imperative, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), hosted a call-in to encourage Latin@s, and their family members, to let their Congressmen know that we demand a national health care system that works for us. A day later, Choice USA hosted a different call-in, encouraging individuals to contact their Congressmen and demand the Hatch Amendment be removed from the Senate Finance Committee’s version of healthcare reform. The amendment allots $50 million to fund abstinence-only programs in public schools.
On October 20, 2009, Women of Color United for Health Reform also hosted a conference call with senior White House officials about the needs of women of color in health reform. With over 400 participants, and various media hits, the conference call was successful in letting the current administration know that as women of color, we are tired of being ignored when it comes to our health care needs.
Civic participation is one thing Latin@s NEED to work on. Our voting records prove it; we are not as involved in the American political process as we should be. The Latino population is estimated to include 30,000,000 individuals. Out of these, approximately 19,500,000 are Latino citizens of voting age. Yet, only 11, 608,000 are registered to vote. Of these, only 9,745,000 voted in the 2008 Presidential elections. This amounts to less than 50% of the qualified Latino population voting. Amongst Latin@s, the percentage is even less – with only 5,000,000 registered Latinas who voted last year.
Needless to say, this makes it easier for the largely white and male Congress to ignore us when making important decisions that affect US directly – such as health reform and our right to safe and legal abortions. This was demonstrated in this weekend’s vote on health care reform legislation in the House of Representatives and the anti-choice amendment that was included.
It is citizen-led actions like these that force Congress to listen to our needs, which will ensure Latin@s get the health care we deserve. So go out and make sure you speak up; if not for yourself, for the 14,985,000 Latin@ daughters, mothers, and sisters that are being neglected at this very moment.
By Veronica Bernance, Communications and Development Intern
• In an effort to pass health care reform, Congress included an amendment that singled out and banned most abortions from all public and private health plans in the insurance exchange. Women who think they may need an abortion in the future would be required to buy an additional insurance “abortion rider” with their own personal funds for coverage.
• Under the House bill, undocumented immigrants can buy into the public health insurance exchange with their own money. But, they are prevented from receiving any subsidies, affordability credits, or receive federal Medicaid.
• The 5-year ban on legal residents accessing public health benefits, including Medicaid, also remained intact.
Essentially politicians are saying that under current health care reform, women would have to plan for an unplanned pregnancy.
Anti-choice activists know that the real goal of this amendment is to limit women’s access to abortion coverage in both public and private health insurance plans since many private plans may choose to deny coverage for abortions. They even brazenly called the final House bill “a nail in the eventual coffin of Roe v. Wade.” (Christian Newswire)
And anti-immigrant forces are working day and night to strip out health care access for undocumented immigrants in the final bill that goes before the President for his signature. In fact, the current Senate bill up for debate prohibits undocumented immigrants from using their own money to buy health insurance in the exchange, leaving millions without health care!
It’s not too late to demand real health reform for Latinas and their families.
CALL YOUR SENATOR. While we’ll be doing everything we can to protect the health and rights of Latinas and their families, your Senators need to hear directly from you.
Contact the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be directly connected to your Senator or contact their office directly. To find and contact your Senator click here.
SPREAD THE WORD. Tell your families and friends to do the same. Also, don’t forget to spread the word on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter!
For more information and talking points, go here.
A recent New Yorker article by Atul Gawande has been getting a lot of coverage lately–there are even rumors that Obama has made it required reading for his White House Staff. In the piece, Gawande shares an extensive evaluation of the medical system in McAllen, Texas. We at NLIRH know McAllen well, because it is where for over two years we have been working with the women in the video above, the amazing activists affiliated with La Voz Latina and Migrant Health Promotion.
He started by looking at numbers: “In 2006, Medicare spent fifteen thousand dollars per enrollee here, almost twice the national average.” Gawande asked long standing community doctors why the spending rates of Medicare are so high in this area of Texas. They told him: “There is overutilization here, pure and simple.” There is no evidence that the city provides better quality care than any other city, even with it’s up-to-date medical technology. Actually, the health outcomes are worse. Looking outside the community for help analyzing this “Cost Conundrum,” Gawande solicited Jonathan Skinner, a Dartmouth economist, to analyze why the cost of care was so high in McAllen. Skinner also concluded that is was “very simply, the across-the-board overuse of medicine.”
In his analysis of the medical delivery system in McAllen, Gawande did not address many of the concerns of the women we’ve worked with, some of whom are featured in the video above. We know a large portion of the people in this region are undocumented immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Even if they have documents, these immigrants do not qualify for federal programs like Medicare for the first five years they are here. So how do these immigrants get health care? Many reportedly cross the border to Mexico if needing medical attention, or some pay out-of-pocket for services in the area.
Gawande may not be talking about these women, but they are doing their own organizing to address the health care gaps in their communities. We’ve collaborated with them on reproductive justice organizing and advocacy, and it’s amazing to see what they are achieving despite all the barriers they face.
Contributed by Robin Mangini, Research Intern
In a historic presidential election President Obama has now been passed the baton for leading our nation.
While Obama is ready to take on the task at hand, women, many of whom voted for him, should be assured that the Obama and Biden administration will be strong advocates for women.
Some of his campaign promises include:
- Ensuring that all Americans have health insurance by the end of his first term, including the over 19 million women who are currently uninsured.
- Tackling the issue of HIV/AIDS, and empowering women in the fight against the disease. In 2006, Latina women accounted for 21% of all women who died from AIDS in the United States.
- Supporting abortion for all women and oppose any amendments that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
- Increasing access to contraception and preventative services, as well as providing comprehensive sex education to adolescents and teens.
- Fighting for equity in pay. To date, women only make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. Even worse, Latina women make 55 cents for every dollar a man makes.
- Working to fight against poverty, an issue affecting over 14 million women in the United States, and as of 2007 20% of Latinas.
- Raising the minimum wage to $9.50, directly benefiting 60% of the workforce receiving minimum wage that are woman.
For many Latinas in the United States, the election of President Obama is a signal of a new era that may provide hope to many. As put by our new president during his acceptance speech:
Hope and change have been the cause of my life. Hope and change have been the story of our country, and we’re here today to continue that story of hope and change… hope and change. We are not just here to win an election; we are here to transform our nation.
Contributed by Angela Donadic, Policy and Advocacy Fellow
Check out NLIRH Executive Director Silvia Henriquez’s post answering the question If Latinas had a cafecito with each presidential candidate, what questions would we ask?
Abortion-This is an issue that is always part of each party’s platform. So while we hear each candidate’s position on a women’s “right to choose,” many women of color have moved beyond just “choice.” Many women of color reproductive justice organizations have moved to abortion within a human right to health care agenda and aim to place the reproductive health needs of the most disadvantaged women at the center. Therefore, for me, the most pressing question for the candidates is not just will you protect Roe v. Wade, but will you also repeal the Hyde Amendment that prohibits federal Medicaid funding for abortion services?
Immigration—Immigration reform is another highly debated topic. My question on this issue to the candidates is: will you stop the inhumane raids occurring across the country? Raids are tearing families apart and particularly separating nursing mothers from their newborn babies. If we do not stop raids we should at the very least improve the conditions for detained women who are nursing or pregnant. Will candidates improve the lives of detained mothers and their young children?
Health inequities—Because we know that women of color experience poorer outcomes for so many health issues compared to white women, we are looking for solution-oriented strategies. We do not need to simply gather more evidence on health disparities. What we need is that the next administration prioritizes solutions. My question is will you provide funding to establish an Office of Latina Health to specifically look at strategies and solutions that will eliminate health disparities in 10 years?
Civic engagement and participation goes well beyond the voting booth. While voting is certainly a crucial piece of it, so many active community members cannot vote in this upcoming election. But this does not stop many women—mainly immigrant women-from engaging and mobilizing their communities around a Latina, feminist pro-family agenda for reproductive health and justice.
Read the full piece at The National Council for Research on Women blog.
A reminder of why YOUR vote really matters. It even matters enough for you to STAY IN LINE for as long as it takes.
CALL. EMAIL. TEXT. For Women’s Equality Day. 08.26.08.
MI-LOLA presents CALL, the first of three brief clips about the Florida Primary Election and Women’s Equality Day – both of which fall on Tuesday, August 26th.
MI-LOLA urges you to CALL your friend, your mom, or a colleague and remind them to vote in celebration of Women’s Equality Day.
OH, and don’t YOU forget to VOTE. See you at the polls!
HELP us spread the word by FORWARDING this message and by posting this clip on your favorite social networking sites! Or visit YouTube and comment on the clip!
A Project of MI-LOLA: Miami International Latinas Organizing for Leadership and Advocacy