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Archive for the ‘Families’ Category

This month, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is serving up 20 DAYS OF ACA, a media, public education, and organizing effort aimed at sharing personal stories, information, and resources on how Latinas have benefited from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how they will continue to benefit as the law is funded and implemented.

As part of our ¡Soy Poderosa! campaign, we will mobilize Latinas to commemorate this important law on its 2-year anniversary and declare their own power as health care advocates, consumers, and providers.

Starting today, we will celebrate the second anniversary of the enactment of the ACA (March 23rd), and we will watch closely as the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), the highest court of the land, holds three days of oral arguments (March 26-28) in order to review the law.

Latinas have much to gain from this important law, and even more to lose if it is undermined, reversed, or not implemented appropriately:

  • Latin@s have the highest rates of health care uninsurance among all racial and ethnic groups. Barriers to both private health insurance as well as public health programs contribute to Latin@s’  disproportionately high rates of uninsurance.
  • Those Latinas who do have access to medical care are often met with a health care workforce that is not adequately competent and sensitive to their culture and language preferences. Co-pays for even basic preventive services, including contraception, create situations where Latinas have to choose between groceries and health care.
  • Fear of bias and discrimination from health professionals due to one’s immigration status, sexual orientation, and gender identity among others also create barriers to meaningful health care.
  • The lack of a diverse health care workforce serving in communities where Latinas live puts health care out of reach for many.
  • Those without employer-sponsored coverage face prohibitively high cost and ever-increasing premiums on the individual health insurance market.
  • Eligibility rules for Medicaid, Medicare and the Children’s Health Insurance Program often deny coverage to populations of Latinas: for example by excluding those without documentation and permanent residents who have had that status for five years or less.
  • The result is that Latinas disproportionately suffer from a number of diseases and conditions, such as cervical cancer, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

However, many provisions of the ACA hold the promise of expanding meaningful access to quality and affordable health care and public health services for Latinas, their families and their communities.

So for the next 20 days, we will be unpacking the ACA, highlighting personal stories of Latinas who have already benefited from the reforms, and previewing what Latinas can look forward to as the law is further implemented. Stay tuned for new fact sheets, information on calls and webinars, and opportunities to ask YOUR questions about the ACA and what it means for you.

Hope you will stay tuned! If you have a personal story of how the ACA has positively impacted your access to health care, or you’d like to get involved in our efforts, please contact Kimberly Inez McGuire at Kimberly@latinainstitute.org.

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Since welfare “reform” in 1996, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has presented a variety of challenges to economically marginalized communities, including communities of color and single mother-led households. Rather than serve as a safety net to help catch those who are in danger of falling into poverty, TANF’s harsh work requirements, increasingly strict time limits, and punitive treatment of childbearing have contributed to pushing people in marginalized communities over the edge. Many of the program’s shortcomings were apparent from the outset, but the economic downturn has caused federal and state budgets to contract and demand for safety net programs to rise—combined with shrinking political will, the economic situation over past few years has created a perfect storm for showcasing TANF’s structural problems. And while TANF reform—not just reauthorization or extension—is pretty much off-the-table for 2011, it is on our wish list for 2012.

As it currently stands, TANF has not been reauthorized since the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which was signed in February 2006 and funded the TANF block grant through September 2010. The program was extended through September 2011 without the TANF Emergency Fund; then it was extended through the end of 2011, this time without funding for the program’s supplemental grants. The loss of the supplemental grants has been devastating for many Latinas. TANF is funded through a block grant, which means that states receive a fixed sum of money for the program, rather than an amount of money that changes based on demand. The supplemental grants provided additional funding to states with quick population growth and historically low welfare payments. Texas, for instance, has had the highest population growth of any state over the past decade, and Latinos account for about two-thirds of this growth and now make up almost 40% of the state’s population. Meanwhile, the state’s TANF benefits for a single-parent family of three while the supplemental grants still existed were only sufficient to bring the family to between 10 and 20% of the federal poverty level (FPL); TANF and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, often called food stamps) together brought the same family to just over 50% of FPL. With the loss of the supplemental assistance grant, Texas stands to lose approximately $50 million per year, reducing its ability to provide benefits to needy Texans, at a time when need is high and assistance levels are already inadequate.

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It was by a fluke of timing that the We Belong Together delegation was in Georgia speaking out against that state’s SB 1070 copycat legislation on the same day that neighboring Alabama announced that large parts of its copycat legislation survived a legal challenge. But now that parts of Alabama’s strict immigration law have been upheld, the countdown towards implementation begins. In other words, the time has come for the wave of fear that has been building across the country to come crashing over Alabama’s growing immigrant population.

And this fear is warranted:  on its face, the law aims to lock up immigrants or drive them out of the country, or at least the state. Short of driving the immigrant population out, the law may effectively drive immigrants into the factories and the fields as it tries to ensure that they are uneducated, impoverished, and easily exploitable. As the We Belong Together delegation highlighted, Arizona’s concerns have become those of Georgia, and it is now clear that these concerns are very real in Alabama, too.

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Gaby Rodriguez, a high school senior, standing with a microphone in front of a slideshow presentation

Gaby Rodriguezpresenting in front of her classmates. Photo Credit: Yakima Herald

The last couple of weeks have brought us two amazing instances of young women speaking out about pregnant and parenting youth. In one case, Gaby Rodriguez, a high school student from Washington state, faked a pregnancy as a social experiment and critique of the stigma surrounding pregnant young women:

 Only a handful of people — her mother, boyfriend and principal among them — knew Gaby was pretending to be pregnant for her senior project, a culminating assignment required for graduation….But Gaby didn’t give up the charade until Wednesday morning, when she revealed her secret during an emotional, all-school assembly.

The topic of her presentation: “Stereotypes, rumors and statistics.”

“Teenagers tend to live in the shadows of these elements,” she says.

This brave young woman is right on it, pointing out and calling out the ways that pregnant young women are stigmatized, and challenging that stigma. It’s clear that what pregnant and parenting young people need is support, not stigma. Which brings us to the second instance of young women of color speaking out on this issue: the young women of the Catherine Ferguson Academy.

The Catherine Ferguson Academy (CFA) is a public school in Detroit for pregnant and parenting young women, providing on-site childcare, prenatal care, and other support to their students. Faced with budget shortfalls, Detroit is planning to close down several schools, and CFA is slated for closing after this summer – but CFA’s students took matters into their own hands, and staged a sit-in to protest the closings.

“When people at my regular high school realized that I was pregnant, I was told my chances of being a success in life were over,” said Ashley Matthews, a junior at CFA. “At Catherine Ferguson, they told me they wouldn’t allow me to be anything BUT a success. I love CFA, and I am prepared to fight to keep it open, not only for myself, but for all the girls who will come behind me.”  

In a city with low graduation rates, CFA boasts a 90% graduation rate, and a 100% of graduates go on to college. These numbers go to show that when young parents are supported they can and do succeed. The young women of CFA now know this, and were willing to resist with civil disobedience – the sit-in participants were arrested, some of them in front of their small children – to show their district just how important the school is to them.

These young women are all heroes, and are making the point over and over again: support, not stigma, is what young women need – whether trying to access reproductive health services or raise a child.

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Activists held back their gasps then wept in the Senate Gallery Saturday morning as one by one members who were considered “on the fence” regarding the DREAM Act, (the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act), fell on the wrong side of history.

A vote of 55-41 in favor of closing debate on the bill was five short of what was needed to clear a path for passage for the historic legislation.  National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is deeply saddened by the lack of courage by those who voted against the desire of their constituents to give undocumented youth, who have grown up in the United States, the means to step out of the shadows, pursue education, and accomplish their goals.

Even more disappointing are the female senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Kay Hagan (D-NC), who failed to acknowledge the reality of women immigrants in their communities and instead chose to support policies that tear families apart.

Not only does educational attainment give Latinas access to information, resources and services that will help them make informed and autonomous decisions, but it also enhances their central role in their families and communities.  Women immigrants are the backbone of their family as reflected by recent data:

• U.S. Census Bureau indicates more than half of all immigrants are women.

• New America Media identified a trend of immigrant women as primary breadwinners and family caretakers.

• Data also shows that immigrant women are often the ones to initiate the citizenship process for their families.

Unfortunately, current family immigration policies create tremendous backlogs, particularly among Asian & Pacific Islanders immigrants, destroying the lives of women and families in the process.

Despite the devastating loss, NLIRH offers our appreciation to all those who took a principled stand on DREAM this session, including Republican senators Richard Lugar (R-IN), Bob Bennett (R-UT), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Everyone, including immigrants, deserves to live free from discrimination, oppression and violence in all forms. That’s why we will forge ahead with our work with the Administration and lawmakers toward the goal of true comprehensive immigration reform for immigrant women and their families.

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An article published online last week in the journal Pediatrics suggests that $13 billion and over 900 infants’ lives could be saved if 90% of infants were breastfed exclusively for six months.

According to the most recent recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfeeding is beneficial to the health of both the mother and child. It may decrease rates of ovarian and breast cancer among women and bone-related injuries and diseases. The AAP recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for six months, and non-exclusively breastfed for the first year and beyond as desired.

In this study, the authors undergo a cost analysis using data from previous studies. They calculated the approximate number of infants that are breastfed and the number that are not exclusively breastfed using data from a 2005 CDC survey. Then, they looked at a collection of diseases for which a lower risk has been reported for exclusively breastfed infants and the associated health costs for those diseases. The study did not look at every disease associated with breastfeeding, and in particular left out type 2 diabetes because of insufficient data. The overall conclusion shows that the US incurs billions of dollars in excess costs due to the

At the end of the day, breastfeeding is a lifestyle choice. However, given its health benefits, it should be a more accessible option for women who do prefer to breastfeed their children. Not every mother-child pair is capable of breastfeeding, but those that are should be able to do so without excessive inconvenience. Today, many women are unable to breastfeed their infants due to inadequate maternity leave, inability to take time off of work, and insufficient access to counseling about lactation. Additionally, healthcare providers often fail to inform women about the benefits of breastfeeding, and are unable to give women practical advice regarding breastfeeding.

Increasing support services for breastfeeding could save hundreds of lives and billions of dollars, which could be directed towards saving additional lives.

By Zarah Iqbal, Policy Intern

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As the world already knows, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti yesterday afternoon near Port-au-Prince, the capital and largest city of the country. The earthquake, the strongest to hit Haiti in more than 200 years, devastated the 2 million people who live in and near the capital. According to some reports, the death toll could possibly run between 100,000 to 500,000…and untold numbers are still trapped. But, 80% of Haiti’s 9 million residents were already desperately poor, and after years of political instability, the country had no real construction standards to begin with. Tens of thousands of families lost their homes as buildings that were “flimsy and dangerous even under normal conditions” collapsed in the earthquake. As Edwidge Danticat, the award-winning Haitian-American author said, “Life is already so fragile in Haiti, and to have this on such a massive scale, it’s unimaginable how the country will be able to recover from this.”

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