Archive for the ‘Maternity’ Category

The Governor of Utah, Gary Herbert has signed into law a bill that would charge a woman with criminal homicide if she knowingly carries out a self-abortion. In order analyze the impact this law will have on Latinas, particularly immigrant and low-income Latinas, let’s take a step back and review how this law, with its deep contempt for women on all levels, got passed in the first place.

Whereas many states have laws already in existence regarding fetal homicide, legislators in the state of Utah put forth a bill criminalizing “any act resulting from a woman who knowingly, recklessly, or intentionally causes a miscarriage”, in which the pregnant woman herself may spend 15 to life in prison. That bill was returned to legislators because although Gov. Herbert agreed with the goal of the bill, he “also believes very strongly that the state should not enact a law with unintended consequences.”  Indeed, Marina Lowe, the of the Utah American Civil Liberties Union had advised Mr. Herbert to veto this bill due to the consequences that could arise.  She said, “So many things can happen, and it’s all in the eye of the beholder – that’s what’s very dangerous about this legislation.” In other words, Herbert was concerned that if a woman had a miscarriage due to say, a fall on a patch of ice, there was the possibility that she would be criminally charged. The solution? The word “recklessly” was removed from the bill and on March 8 Gov. Herbert signed into a law a bill that allows homicide charges to be brought against women themselves for ending their own pregnancy.

We still need to bring light the dangers that this law, whose authors had creatively invented something called “criminal miscarriage,” still poses for many women.  The bill proposed was a response to what happened about a year ago, where a 17 year old that did not want to carry her pregnancy to term paid a man $150 to beat her up, anticipating that the outcome would be a miscarriage.   While I agree that these circumstances should not happen to any woman who does not want to carry her pregnancy to full term, this law makes no headway in preventing it. Even with a cursory understanding of this law, it is clear that it in no way addresses the reality of the situation- that women are not able get affordable, timely abortion services, particularly adolescents.


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Today I was able to attend a meeting of the secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, with City University of New York faculty and staff at Hunter College. At first I was disappointed that we were only going to discuss the HHS efforts to provide the H1N1 vaccine to all Americans, but as I learned more I understood that the nation’s response to pandemics like H1N1 is important for Latina reproductive health and wellbeing. (more…)

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Via CNN, comes the story of one residential treatment facility trying to provide services to pregnant and parenting mothers who struggle with substance abuse.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and SAMHSA’s health information network,  compared to other racial groups, Latinos come in second for highest incidence of binge drinking and heavy alcohol use. Additionally, about 1 in 10 Latino youth has recently used illegal drugs.  The effects of drug and alcohol abuse on our lives and health is massive. When pregnancy and parenting is also considered, the services needed to serve our community are even more difficult to find.

Serenity Place of South Carolina is one women’s treatment facility that tries to serve this community.

Serenity Place is a fairly new, 16 bed residential facility treatment program where women can bring up to two children with them and pregnant women battling substance abuse are also encouraged to enroll in services. While in the residential center, women learn a variety of new skills for parenting, in addition to techniques for coping with substance abuse. While the program says it can’t guarantee the success of every women who passes through its program, this type of holistic support is necessary to provide support to these women and their families. The program website states that private insurance and Medicaid are accepted and no one is denied services due to the inability to pay.

I think it is about time programs like this become accessible to ALL women regardless of situation, to ensure brighter futures for both them and their children. To read or hear more stories about the women currently in the program or those who have graduated, please read the article or watch the video here.

By Jennifer Leigh Velez, Policy Intern

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A Gallup survey commissioned by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recently reported that the rough economy is impacting women’s reproductive health in considerable ways.  Decisions about when to become pregnant, how many children to have, what type of contraception method to use, and whether or not to attend their yearly well-woman exams are being influenced by the present dismal economy.  When it came to their reproductive health, survey statistics included:

  • One in seven (14%) women reporting they had postponed their annual ob-gyn checkup;
  • 14% of all women ages 18-44 reporting that the economy has influenced their plans to increase family size; and
  • 9% (nearly 1 in 10) of married women indicating that the bad economy was a factor in their decision to postpone a planned pregnancy.

Also interesting to note is that compared to one year ago, more women are both concerned about having an unintended pregnancy and more conscientious about using birth control to avoid that from happening.  Though women reported that having a reliable form of contraception was extremely important to them (9 on a scale of 1 to 10), one must consider whether women will continue to be able to afford birth control, especially when public health clinics and family planning programs nationwide are undergoing funding cuts.  The Gallup survey found that ten percent of women were worried about their ability to keep paying for contraception, some had switched their birth control method, and some had quit using it all together.

It is evident that when worried about their financial situation, women are more likely to forgo routine health care and cut back or stop taking their prescribed medications.  As it is, Latinas disproportionately lack health insurance and access important services like breast/cervical cancer screenings and early prenatal care in lower numbers.  This, compounded with the cultural notion that Latinas put familia first makes the situation even more daunting.  Necesitamos seguir la lucha por el aceso a salud reproductiva para todas las mujeres.

By Norma Haro, Research Intern

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As health reform continues to take center stage in Washington, DC, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs is calling on citizens to contact their Congress members and voice support for increasing Maternal and Child Health (MCH) funding. They are calling for full-funding of the $850 million for Title V MCH Block Grant.

The MCH Block Grant authorized by Title V of the Social Security Act is the only Federal program that solely focuses on improving the health of all mothers and children.  Title V funds support programs for millions of pregnant women, infants and children, including those with special health care needs to facilitate the development of family-centered, community-based, coordinated systems of care.  Essential services like transportation, translation, home visiting, nutrition counseling, and care coordination are sustained with Title V funds.  These services are critical to the well-being of all mothers and children, but even more so for Latinas.  Culturally sensitive programs greatly assist the Latino community in navigating the health care system and invite families to utilize services that will keep women and children healthy.

There continues to be a big need for additional MCH resources in this country.  Racial and ethnic health disparities persist, and women of color have disproportionate rates of preterm birth, low birth weight babies, and infant mortality.  States are able to use Title V funds to provide and enable access to comprehensive pre and postnatal care, helping to make sure that women begin receiving care early on in their pregnancies.

Be an advocate for full funding for the MCH Block Grant and contact your elected officials today!  Instructions for who to call and what to say can be found here.

More about MCH funding and Title V here.

Contributed by Norma Haro, Summer Research Intern

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Women have the right to have children whenever they think this is appropriate for their unique, individual circumstances, whether they’re married or not, and to have social systems in place that support their decision, said Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, Deputy Director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

Read the press release (in English & Spanish) here.

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The National Center of Health Statistics found that the U.S. infant mortality rate declined 2% in 2006, after 5 years of remaining unchanged. This is great new for women and their families. The infant mortality rate is one the key indicators of the overall health of a country and lowering it is one the of Healthy People 2010 goals. But we still have a long way to go to reach that goal: At 6.71 death per 1,000 births, the rate would have to fall 50% to reach the 2010 goal of 4.5.


Underlying this good news is the stark reality that major reproductive health inequities still exist between white women and women of color. In 2005, Puerto Rican women had an infant mortality rate almost 1.5 times higher than white women. For black women the rate was 2.4 times higher than white women and for Native American and Alaskan Native women, it was 1.4 times higher.


The NCHS doesn’t report infant mortality differences by income or neighborhood, but other data indicate that the poorest neighborhoods, where Latinas are more likely to live, also have higher rates. In 2005 my south Bronx neighborhood, which is 73% Latino, had an infant mortality rate more than 3 times that of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, which is only 6% Latino and 83% white.


These data show that there is much work to do to eliminate the reproductive health inequities that Latinas and their families face. We can start by ensuring that all Latinas are able to get early and high quality prenatal and post natal care. This will require a better integration of all reproductive health services into regular primary care, a national health care plans that covers the entire range of reproductive health care services, and Latinas’ equitable access to the services, resources, and facilities that promote the healthiest pregnancies.

Contributed by Liza Fuentes, Senior Research Associate

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