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Archive for the ‘Health Care’ Category

Each April public health and civil rights advocates work to raise awareness about the health inequities that continue to impact communities of color in the U.S. Among the health conditions that are usually highlighted are diabetes, HIV/AIDS, certain cancers, mental illness, and obesity. While it’s certainly critical to address the high rates of these conditions in our communities, another persistent minority health issue is often overlooked.

Women of color (WOC) consistently face reproductive health injustices that are rarely discussed in the context of a minority health issue. This topic is usually relegated to the WOC realm of women’s health. But this April, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) is shifting the dialogue about minority health and highlighting the lack of access to safe, legal, and affordable abortion as a very real health crisis for many of our herman@s.

In 1973, the Supreme Court passed the landmark Roe. v. Wade decision, granting women the right to safe and legal abortion. While this was a major victory for the women’s rights movement, the fight for abortion rights did not stop then. In fact, over the years, the right to abortion has been consistently attacked, restricted, and limited at both the state and federal level.

Among the most harmful of the restrictions enacted was the implementation of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion services. Rep. Henry Hyde, author of the Hyde Amendment, said of his intentions for the rider: “I would certainly like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion: a rich woman, a middle class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the [Medicaid] bill.”  This rider has been renewed each year for over three decades, and currently, federal funds can only be used in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment.

The Hyde Amendment was crafted as a deliberate attack on low-income women’s reproductive freedom. Considering that women of color are more likely to be low-income – 24 percent of Latin@s, 27 percent of black women, and 18 percent of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders live below the poverty level – the Hyde Amendment is essentially an attack on women of color’s reproductive rights, by denying them the ability to access affordable abortion. The denial of affordable healthcare that covers abortion is yet another issue on the long list of ways and means used to undermine the bodily autonomy and reproduction of WOC in the U.S.

As a result of the Hyde Amendment, abortion has remained out of reach for many low-income or uninsured women despite it being legalized in 1973. For many of our Latina herman@s, access to affordable abortion has never been an option because they are low-income, uninsured, or don’t have private insurance that covers abortion. The reality is, one in three Latin@s is uninsured, which is higher than other race/ethnic group in the country. Of those that are insured, many rely on federally funded programs for coverage, which don’t cover abortion. Without the ability to afford it, the right to abortion is meaningless.

In fact, the first woman who died as a direct result of the Hyde Amendment was a Latina. Rosie Jiménez was a Latina college student and single mother who had Medicaid coverage. Since the Hyde Amendment had recently eliminated federal Medicaid funding for abortion, Rosie resorted to unsafe abortion because she didn’t have the means to pay for the service out of pocket. She died one week after her abortion in October 1977 due to complications from an unsafe procedure. Harrowing as it is, Rosie’s story is not unique. Each year tens of thousands of people are denied access to affordable abortion because of the Hyde Amendment. Although not every person’s story ends tragically, many people’s lives are greatly impacted by the financial burden of paying for an abortion or having to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.

For Latin@ immigrants, access to affordable abortion can be even more difficult due to many factors including, high rates of uninsurance, cultural and linguistic barriers, lack of information about abortion in the U.S., immigration status, and poverty.

It’s undeniable: the Hyde Amendment hurts women. Moreover, the Hyde Amendment hurts WOC, who are disproportionately low-income, making this not only a women’s health issue, but a minority health issue as well. This National Minority Health Month let’s raise awareness of all health inequities, including the ability to access to safe and affordable abortion.

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Being a woman in Texas, and across the country, is a battle. We are getting attacked on all sides. Everyone seems to know what is best for us to do with our bodies. Our decisions and our health isn’t respected, valued or supported. Enough is enough. Women are fighting back. Latinas are fighting back, especially in Texas.

The Rio-Grande Valley is one of the poorest areas of our country. Prior to 2011, the women of this region depended on state-funded clinics for healthcare and family planning services. This isn’t just contraceptives, but cancer screenings, pap smears, and more. And then everything changed. 2011 was also the year that the state legislature passed one of the most destructive budgets in state history. [x]

This budget punished Texas clinics by defunding all who were affiliated with abortion providers, even if they didn’t provide abortions. Many other states are also doing the same. The number of women receiving services in the Rio-Grande Valley was reduced by 75% after the cuts. [x]

What ACTUALLY happens when states cut back and defund public clinics simply for being associated with abortion providers? What are the real consequences of these actions? Who is actually affected? Does defunding clinics eliminate abortions? No. Instead of moving forward and bettering the lives of others, we are stepping back in time. Where there is a demand, someone will supply it, even if that means lives are at risk. What these cuts did was hand women hangers, the same hangers that took so many lives in the past. What these cuts do is separate families, create fear, and increase health issues especially because the incidence of cervical cancer in Texas is 19% higher than the national average [x]. Families in Texas, and across the United States, are already dealing with immigration issues, poverty wages, exploitation, food desserts, and these cuts aren’t making lives any easier. Take a moment to remember that not everyone has access to health services during the same time many are rejoicing over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Do something about it!

Workers lose their jobs due to cuts.
After the cuts, Paula Saldaña lost her job as a community educator for a Planned Parenthood clinic in Brownsville, Texas. She continues to give workshops on reproductive health as a volunteer. In the video below, Paula shares her experiences out in Texas and the frustration she feels about the cuts.

Families are torn apart
Adriana found herself crossing the border back and forth to receive health services in Mexico, until the violence at the border increased. Her family has been split up due to deportations. She suffers with health issues, and the uncertainty of not being able to take proper care of herself as she raises her two grand-kids. Not being able to take proper care of herself leaves her family in a very vulnerable place; especially because Adriana is the sole provider for her family in the United States. Adriana shares her experiences below.

In late 2012 and early 2013, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health documented the impact of state funding cuts to family planning services on women in Texas and created a human rights report. The report and information about this partnership can be found at Nuestro Texas. The report draws from the stories of women in Texas to show how funding cuts to women’s preventive services are more than failed policies—they are violations of their human rights.

Read the Nuestro Texas report here
Like Nuestro Texas on Facebook
Follow Nuestro Texas on Twitter

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By Jessica Karina Guerra-Ugalde

I was thrilled and honored to stand behind the President last week as he talked about how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) benefits all of our communities.  Because of the immense pride I have in the ACA, I wanted to share my enrollment story and what it means to me.  I graduated college in 2008, and did what college kids throughout the country do after graduation – I moved home and began looking for work. I worked as an intern and later as a temp- both positions did not offer any benefits. At that point, I was 22 years old, and I really did not think that anything could affect me.  I was healthy and rarely got sick. Immediately after the ACA became law and was implemented, my mom went to her job to ensure that I was covered under her health insurance plan. A week after I received my health insurance card, I became very sick. I had to see a number of different specialists, had lab work done, and ultimately, the doctors were able to diagnose and treat me for pneumonia. If I didn’t have health insurance, if it wasn’t for ObamaCare, I wouldn’t be here today in good health.

The ACA is good for Latinas and our community because it has given young people like me, access to health insurance in a time when it’s hard to find work. It’s even more difficult to find a job that offers benefits. Because of ACA, I can go to sleep at night knowing that I can see the doctor whenever I want, without worrying about not having money to pay for a provider out of pocket or for medication. For young people graduating college, it adds stress to your job hunt to find a job that would offer you health care benefits. A few weeks after I got better, I was able to access all the care that I needed to make sure I was 100%.  That included an appointment with the dentist, ophthalmologist, and my annual physical. When you have health insurance, you take even the smallest things for granted like seeing the eye doctor for contacts.

I believe that my experience, my story, is the story of many young people across the country. My mom says that the ACA, all the policy makers who worked to pass this law, and the people who have fought for the ACA have all saved my life and I agree. Thanks to this law, I was able to get the care I needed when I needed it.

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Post by Nicole CatáIMG_20130802_115313_070

Because the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is kicking off the Latina Week of Action blog series with posts about gender and reproductive justice, I was hoping to highlight a piece by Lauren Rankin at Truthout called “Not Everyone Who Has an Abortion Is a Woman – How to Frame the Abortion Rights Issue.”  The piece makes the case that the ongoing “War on Women” is not just a war on women, and that, as the Latina Institute has long recognized, the rights of trans men and gender-nonconforming people are also at stake in the struggle for reproductive justice.  Rankin calls on activists and advocates tackling “women’s issues” to incorporate more gender-inclusive frameworks and language.  I am grateful to Rankin, the New York Abortion Access Fund, the Latina Institute, and many others in paving the way for gender inclusivity in reproductive justice.

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Post By Nicole Catá

Originally from Cortlandt, NY by way of Flushing, NY, Nicole Catá now studies at The George Washington University Law School and the Elliott School of International Affairs.  During her time as an undergraduate student at Columbia University, she worked from January to August 2010 as a policy and advocacy intern at the Latina Institute.  Nicole spent this summer as a legal intern at National Advocates for Pregnant Women and will work this fall as a student attorney for the International Human Rights Clinic at GW Law School.  Nicole will serve as the president of GW Law School’s chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice during the 2013-14 school year.

Birth Justice as a Matter of Reproductive Justice

With news of Prince George’s birth dominating the Internet, it may be helpful to highlight the lived realities of birthing experiences in the United States for women of color. Given that the royal birth cost $15,000, whereas the average cost of birth in the United States is $30,000, you have to wonder whether we’re getting what we pay for.  For poor, uninsured women of color in the United States, too often the answer is “no.”

Last year, Denene Millner published a piece called “Birthing While Black” that details the abysmal treatment she received at an upper Manhattan hospital while delivering her first daughter.  Despite having paid for “upgrades” to secure the birth experience she had envisioned, Millner catalogues a litany of maltreatments she experienced the moment her baby was born.  For example, she describes as follows:

Once in the private room, the nurses disappeared for nine hours! Seriously. Nine. I had no diapers. No idea how to breastfeed properly (and no bottle or milk to feed my baby if I chose to formula feed). No instructions on what to do to care for my post-birth body (was it okay to walk? Pee? Wash?). Nothing. I seriously thought I was being punished for asking (nicely) for what I’d paid for. When a nurse finally did show up, she came with a “gift bag” full of formula and coupons for… formula.

Millner’s piece highlights the injustices too often leveled against women of color on what should be the happiest days of their lives.  The notion that she was treated so poorly after having paid for hospital upgrades speaks volumes about what poor, uninsured women of color face when giving birth in many hospitals around the country.

We know that everyone deserves access to high-quality health care, that birth justice is a matter of reproductive justice, and that health and dignity are human rights.  Millner reminds us that everyone deserves to be treated like royalty during and after their birthing experiences.

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Post by Valentina Forte-Hernandez

Texas legislatures are attempting to disguise their anti-abortion bill as a measure of protection for teenagers and children. They are acting as if restricting abortion, limiting contraceptive care and defunding sexual education will prevent teenagers from having sex. If teenagers do not know how to have safe sex, are unable to access contraception or abortion they will stop having sex, right? Wrong. Denying youth sex ed, contraception and abortion will only ensure that there will be more unsafe sex, more unplanned pregnancies and more women turning to dangerous abortion alternatives. Saying these restrictions are to protect young people is not only preposterous, it also ignores all the adult women who are also being harmed by a lack of access to reproductive care. The anti-abortion bill and the continuous cuts to reproductive health care services hurt all Texas women. Even if you do not need an abortion, even if you do not support abortion, if you are a woman in Texas you are being told that you are not entitled to make decisions about your own body.

It is a common misconception that reproductive health care exclusively refers to abortion and contraceptive services. Reproductive health care centers provide many services, not just ones that are directly related to sexual activity. Places like Planned Parenthood provide a variety of services like breast exams and other preventative treatments for breast cancer, ovarian cancer and a number of other illnesses that are not related to being sexually active. While many supporters of the anti-choice movement say that these services are available at other health centers, they are often unaffordable and inaccessible, especially to immigrant and undocumented women who are the people that will suffer the most if the bill becomes a law.
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Texas women are hurting themselves with dangerous, illegal abortion alternatives now. It is not a scary hypothetical that will happen with new restrictions, it is happening every day and will only become more frequent if access to contraception and abortion is further limited. Women without the means to afford safe, clinical contraceptive services are risking their lives by crossing the border to buy black market drugs to induce abortion. While these drugs are known to be dangerous, women who are struggling to support a family would rather risk their own lives than have a child they cannot afford to take care of. These high-risk alternatives are often unsuccessful and many women experience uncontrollable bleeding and end up in the emergency room. With less access to contraceptive services there will be more unplanned pregnancies. More unplanned pregnancies and less access to abortion means more women will be turning to dangerous alternatives. Anti-choice Texans are hurting women in the name of “protecting youth.” They are punishing women for being sexually independant and turning a blind eye to the real needs of their citizens.

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No matter how hard Texas legislators try to disguise their anti-women, anti-choice agenda I will not be fooled into believe their restrictions do a single thing to protect teenagers and children. If we want to protect teenagers, shouldn’t we be teaching them how to have safe sex to prevent the spread of disease and decrease the amount of unplanned, unwanted pregnancies? If we want to protect our children shouldn’t we keep our mother’s healthy and able to take care of the families they have? Shouldn’t we stop punishing women for not wanting to have a child they can’t afford to provide for? If you are claiming to be protecting youth, can you explain how this anti-choice legislation does a single thing to lower the rate of unemployment and homelessness amongst young people? What does it do to for the under resourced school system and millions children living in poverty? It does not do a single thing to improve the lives of young people in Texas, or to combat the real problems they are facing. This anti-abortion legislation gives nothing to Texas citizens and it takes away the reproductive rights of Texas women.

As a teenager girl, I say thanks but no thanks, Texas, for fighting (lying) in my name. I know you have convinced yourself that restricting my options will prevent me from having sex but it won’t, so it would be great if you would teach me how to make informed decisions about my body, not take away my ability to make these decisions at all. I would so greatly appreciate it if you considered a living, breathing woman of any age to be as valuable as a six week old fetus. If you really care about my safety it would be SUPER if you would start addressing my actual needs as an autonomous, teenage girl instead of serving your own, outdated ideology. If you really want to protect us young people, change what you are fighting for. Please stop using my safety as an excuse to restrict the reproductive rights of women of all ages. If you want to fight for my safety, if you want to protect women and teenagers listen to us. Stop trying to trick us into believing you know what’s best for us because you don’t.

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Post By Valentina Forte-Hernandez

   The attention that is being put towards immigration reform marks progress in the immigrant rights movement, but the bill that is currently being discussed in the senate is not ideal. While the bill would pave the way to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country, it would take 10 years for them to receive legal residency. It would take another 5 years for these immigrants to receive health care access, which means it would be 15 years until 11 million people would be able to access their basic human right to health care. Reading articles about the bill predicting that it is likely to pass is disheartening, but scrolling down and reading the comments people have written in response is straight up disturbing. There is clear opposition to the bill, however the opposition voiced through the comments comes from racist citizens of this country who don’t want immigrants to have access to health care ever.

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   In many of the comments it is clear that the term immigrant is exclusively associated with Latino. The majority of immigrants and undocumented folks in the U.S. are Latino, but it is simply incorrect to say that they are the only people immigrating to this country. It is even more upsetting to see what people responding to these articles think of Latino immigrants. Many of the commenters describe Latino as dirty, lazy and job stealers (see the irony here? If we’re so lazy how are we stealing jobs from these poor, “deserving” white people?) The people with these beliefs also oppose immigrant health care, but unlike myself and my peers they believe 15 years is too soon, not too late. These people say they don’t want their tax dollars going towards people who are not from this country, yet they are willing to spend big on hiring 20,000 new border agents. They are fine with spending money on immigrants, just as long as the money goes to keeping them out, not taking care of them once they are here. These comments demonstrate that there is extreme reluctance to acknowledge all of the positive things immigrants are doing for this country. It also bring attention to the longstanding fear some U.S. citizens have of a Latino majority.

       In 2006 Fox News’ John Gibson made a plea for more white babies. He said that half of children under five in this country are minorities and the majority of these children are Latino. To scare his viewers used a study that projected that in 25 years the majority of the population will be hispanic. He less than subtly told white people to start having more babies, suggesting that the desire for a prosperous and comfortable life was keeping white people from having children which makes me wants to roll my eyes and bang my head against the keyboard. Apparently us Latinos have no desire for comfortable or prosperous lives, we just want to make a ton babies to help us steal more jobs and overthrow the country. If it weren’t so damaging and disturbing, it would be almost funny that the people who are scared by John Gibson’s predictions are the same people who want to deny immigrants access to health care. Denying Latino immigrants access to healthcare means that Latinos will continue to have disproportionate access to contraception and other forms of reproductive health care.

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In my opinion all people of all races and all legal statuses are entitled to all health care because it is a basic human right. If you want to have ten kids, do it. If you don’t want any children don’t have any, use birth control, have an abortion, do whatever you want when making decisions about your family as long as it is not a coerced decision or one made because of a lack of access to resources. People like John Gibson and people who oppose immigrant health care like to believe that Latinos are intentionally having lots of babies because they want to take more of “our” jobs and take over this country, but that is not at all true.

Latino and immigrant communities are disproportionately affected by a lack of access to reproductive healthcare including contraceptives and abortions. This means these communities see more unintended pregnancies and ultimately have more children than those of us who do have access birth control. For undocumented folks in particular, getting birth control can be impossible. Undocumented people and other people without health insurance often wait until it is a medical emergency to seek out health care because they cannot afford to go to a doctor and they live in fear of being deported. Birth control is important, but for somebody who has to choose between seeing a doctor and putting food on their families’ table, contraceptive care is not considered a medical emergency. These are the people who are unable to access reproductive health care. They aren’t young, irresponsible people who don’t use contraceptives because they don’t care, they are mothers, they are people supporting families who can’t afford an appointment to the doctor, and often can’t even afford a ride to the doctor. They are hard workers who have to choose between the bare necessities of living and access to medical services that many of us consider essential and they are not the only ones. Underprivileged communities all across the country are having to make these difficult choices, and more often than not these decisions result in reproductive health care being pushed under the rug until a serious problem arises.

Another way one might try to suggest that Latinos are intentionally not using birth control is by saying something along the lines of, “the majority of the Latino population is Catholic and Catholics oppose birth control, right?” Well let me just shut that thought down with some good ole’ statistics. Regardless of religion 97% of Latinas who have ever had sex have used contraception. 96%of sexually active Catholic Latinas have used a contraceptive banned by the Vatican. The majority of all voting Latinas – 89%, to be precise – support contraceptive coverage without copayments for all women. Using religion as an excuse for Latinas’ disproportionate access to contraceptive care  distracts us from the system that is keeping Latinas from having access to all kind of reproductive healthcare (not just birth control). It also blames Latinas for exercising the religious freedom this country was founded on.

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Anyone who believes Latinos and immigrants are trying to take over this country is wrong. Yes, this country is growing more Latino every day but that is not the result of some evil scheme to take America away from white people, to believe that is just delusional. Latinos and immigrants are just trying to live healthy and prosperous lives like all the other people in this world. 15 years is too long for anyone to wait to see a doctor. If people are so concerned about spending money on immigrants, why not spend the money now on preventative care which is way more affordable than treating a serious illness. You are kidding yourself if you think there will be less immigrants just because you want it that way. By 2040 we will be the majority, so it’s time for everyone to realize that there will be more immigrants and there will be more Latinos. Wouldn’t it be better to ensure that every person living in this country is healthy and successful than to continue to weaken valuable members of our society just because you personally don’t like them? To have a strong and powerful country we need strength and support across the board. Anyone who believes immigrants are stealing their jobs should take a look at the system oppressing these immigrants and you might be surprised to find out that it is the same system that is keeping the poor and jobless poor and jobless and making sure the rich stay rich. If you want to be empowered, empower yourself, empower the people who work for their money, not those whose money works for them.

 

Statistics On Latinas and Contraceptives:

http://www.nclr.org/images/uploads/publications/NLIRH-Fact-Sheet-Latinas-and-Contraception-020912.pdf

 

John Gibson’s Call for more White Babies:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0af-RiRDoGk

http://mediamatters.org/mobile/research/2006/05/12/gibson-make-more-babies-because-in-twenty-five/135674

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