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Post By Nicole Catá

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health has long defined reproductive healthcare, autonomy, and decision-making as human rights.  Nowhere is the need for a human rights framing of reproductive issues more acute than in the case of the California prison system.  Last month, the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that, between 2006 and 2010, doctors sterilized nearly 150 female inmates in California prisons without anything remotely resembling informed consent. State documents further divulge that doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation may have completed up to 250 tubal ligations since the 1990s.  Many former inmates are coming forward as having felt ill-informed regarding and coerced into the procedure.  This case reminds us that absolutely everyone, incarcerated or not, deserves dignity in reproductive decisions.

 

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photoValentina Forte-Hernandez is a Berkeley California born Immigrant/Reproductive rights activist. She is interning at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health this summer before returning to her second year at Hampshire college where she studies film production. During her first year of college she worked for Civil Liberties and Public Policy and wrote for the online political blog, The Black Sheep Journal. She is a 19 year old, biracial Latina who writes about topics that speak to her personally. She has voiced her opposition to the shaming of teen moms, Texas’ anti-abortion legislation, immigration reform that hurts the lives and rights of immigrants and now she writes about the need for comprehensive sexual education for teenagers:

Post By Valentina Forte-Hernandez

Teenagers are having sex and will continue to do so whether you like it or not. It’s nothing new, but people are still acting as if it were a shocking discovery. Whether you like it or not, the fact of the matter is that many teenagers are sexually active, not liking it does nothing to prevent teenagers from having sex and it certainly does nothing to protect them. Instead of frowning and wagging your finger, why don’t we put more effort into making sure teenagers are physically and emotionally safe when they do make the decision to have sex? We need sex ed that actually teaches teenagers how to be smart and safe about sex. We do not need education that shames us and our bodies, we don’t need to be taught that we shouldn’t talk about sex. Sex will be a part of our lives whether we choose to be sexually active or not, so we need to know about it and be prepared for it.

999613696749556760   Opponents of comprehensive sex ed may claim that it puts dirty ideas in teenagers’ heads and encourages them to be sexually active. If that’s true, then could somebody explain to me why the states that take the abstinence only approach to sex ed have higher rates of teen pregnancy than states that require comprehensive sex ed? Abstinence only classes do not deter teenagers from being sexually active. These classes provide students with no resources or information about safety, they teach teenagers to be ashamed of their bodies and sexuality. Shaming teenagers about sex does nothing to protect them. Teaching abstinence only classes not only puts teenagers in danger of spreading disease and unwanted pregnancy, it also increases the chance that they will be in emotionally unsafe situations. If your teacher is saying that you are wrong for having sex, you’re not going to feel comfortable asking your teacher any questions if you are considering having sex. If a teenager already feels ashamed for having sex it is so much harder for them to come forward with an incident of sexual assault or rape. They have already been told sex is wrong, so who do they go to when something wrong has happened to them?

   Comprehensive sex ed gives students the information to help them make their own decisions about their bodies and it gives them the confidence to be honest about their desires and experience. Students who have been given the tools to protect themselves have the knowledge and ability to practice safe sex, while students who don’t have any information may not know how to have safe sex. A teenager who has been told that being sexually active is their choice to make is more likely to have the confidence to refuse unwanted sex than one who has learned to be self-conscious and secretive about their sexuality. Teenagers in abstinence only classes are not learning about sex in school but they’re still having it so comprehensive sex ed is clearly not to blame for the fact that teenagers are sexually active.

   Comprehensive sex ed is miles ahead of abstinence only classes when it comes to protecting teenagers, but that’s not to say it’s perfect. I grew up in California, a state that offers comprehensive sex ed and has just seen it’s lowest rate of teen births in 20 years. My first sex ed class happened every other wednesday afternoon. This was the only classes where the boys were separated from the girls. I don’t know what the boys were learning about while we were watching our teacher put tampons in glasses of water because we never talked about it. That was the problem, we didn’t talk to the boys about sex and the segregation of genders was teaching us that we shouldn’t have these discussions with each other. Some might say that these early sex ed classes should be taught separately so students feel comfortable asking embarrassing questions. Sex ed is uncomfortable no matter what, but we should have been going to that comfort and feeling that embarrassment along with the boys. We should be learning from an early age that it is okay to talk about ourselves with anyone, regardless of gender. In my first sex ed class, I was taught about my period, I was taught about contraception but I learned that my body, my experience as a girl was icky to boys and I should never talk to them about it.

   All of my sex ed classes were severely lacking when it came to teaching us about the emotional aspects of sex. The word consent was never uttered, nor was there any discussion about any of the emotional choices that come with being a sexually active person. We never discussed the depiction of sex in popular culture which may not seem like it’s directly related to sexual safety, but considering that we are surrounded and influenced by dramatic, idealized depictions of sex, we probably should have at least one conversation about it. When our movies and advertisements are teaching us things like, girls who have sex are slutty, and if you have sex with him, he’ll stay with you forever it would have been beneficial to talk about the reality of choosing to be sexually active and to debunk some of these artificial depictions. There was no discussion of rape ever. Maybe the topic was avoid in hopes that it was an issue we would never have to deal with, but hoping for the best did nothing to prepare us for the worst, it did nothing to teach us about preventing rape, or what help was out there for us if we had had such an experience. We were given the number to a confidential hotline….Oh, and we watched an episode of Law and order: SVU once, that’s sufficient, right?

   Maybe these conversations weren’t happening in my comprehensive sex ed class because adults didn’t feel like we were mature enough to discuss the emotional impacts of being sexually active but the fact is many of us were already sexually active so these conversations should have been happening. If we were old enough to learn about protection and use it we were old enough to learn about communicating with partners, and we were definitely old enough to learn that sex in the movies is miles different from sex in real life. We knew there were physical consequences to having unsafe sex, we saw the pictures. When it came to the emotional impact of having sex, we were left to figure it out on our own through trial and error and in sometimes the error did a lot of damage.

   Sex ed needs to improve across the board. The abstinence only approach to sex ed needs to be thrown out the window because it doesn’t work. Any class that fails to discuss why being a safe and responsible sexually active person requires more than just using condoms needs to rethink their curriculum. Teenagers need to learn to be honest and confident in their sexual decisions. They need to know that it is not only okay to talk about sex, but that they should be talking about it! If you can’t have a real discussion about sex, you shouldn’t be having it. Sex ed should be about equipping teenagers with all the knowledge, resources and confidence to make the most best, most informed decisions for themselves. If your sex ed class isn’t rooted in teaching teens about sexual safety, then it is not serving the actual needs of teenagers. Sexual safety means physical protection, it means communication, it means honesty, self-awareness and respect. Stop trying to shame teenagers out of having sex, it won’t work. Protect and respect teenagers’ rights to make their own decisions about their own bodies.

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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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Post Written by Valentina Forte-Hernandez

Note: In this blogpost Latin@ with an @ is used to be inclusive of all gender identities.

Take a moment to think of some of your favorite celebrities. Do you have a few in mind? Good, now take some time to think of your favorite queer, Latin@ celebrities. I’m not talking about inspirational activists, independent artists I’m talking about super stars. I’m talking about the people you see on billboards, in commercials, on the cover of magazines. It’s tough, right? The queer community and the Latino/a community are both individually underrepresented in popular culture. Queer and Latin@ representation is virtually non-existent in mainstream media. So what does it matter? Why do we need Latin@s represented in our media? LGBTQ Latin@ youth are suffering. They are being bullied, harassed and killed. Many of them have no adults in their lives they feel they can turn to, and almost all of them believe they must leave their current communities to live happy successful lives. Some people say that it is more difficult for LGBTQ Latin@s to come to terms with and be open about their sexuality because of the unique cultural values many Latino/a communities have. This idea ignores our societies’ responsibility to represent and support Latin@s, it blames Latino/a communities for their values and tells Latin@ youth that they must choose between being Latino/a and being queer. We should bring Latin@s into the spotlight to show our communities that we’re here, our identities are complex and valid. We deserve love and respect. We should be teaching Latino/a communities how to incorporate LGBTQ Latin@s into Latino/a culture, not telling them that their cultural values must be ignored.

Photo By Victoria Ramos

Photo By Victoria Ramos

The two main cultural values that are cited as being exclusive to LGBTQ Latin@s are religion and the importance of family. Religion has been used to oppress queer folks of all racial and ethnic identities. Using religion to deny the identities of queer Latin@s is making the assumption that being religious and being queer are mutually exclusive. A study of LGBTQ Latin@s called The Social Justice Sexuality Project shows that 60% of Latin@s look to their faith to provide meaning and purpose in their life, disproving that it is impossible to be both queer and religious. Religion is not a one size fits all suit, nobody practices their religion the exact same way as anyone else. The majority of Latino/as believe in Catholicism and though the Old Testament says that male homosexuality is a sin, there are quite a few sins that are punishable by death that have been ignored in the modern day including lying about one’s virginity, being a stubborn or and rebellious son and failing to pen a bull that is known to be dangerous and many more. Is it more important to follow every rule in the bible literally, or to follow the overall belief that God loves all of His children and we honor and love our neighbors and family? It is important to be respectful of religion and not to dismiss it as wrong or ignorant. Religion is an essential part of many peoples’ lives, however it should be recognized that religion is something that is learned and practiced while sexual identity is something we are born and live with. No one needs to abandon their religion to accept LGBTQ people, one just needs to realize that the importance of loving one another is a more valuable aspect of being religious than following the rules exactly as they were written thousands of years ago.

To say that valuing family excludes accepting LGBTQ Latin@s assumes that only “traditional” families are of value. Family love should be unconditional, and generally in Latino/a communities it is. The Social Justice Sexuality Project indicates that 52.9% of LGBTQ Latin@s feel supported by their families and another 29% feel somewhat supported. Another study of LQBTQ Latin@ youth indicates that 60% of Latin@ youth feels their family supports LGBTQ identities. Regardless of acceptance, less than half of LGBTQ Latin@ youth feel like they have an adult to turn to if they are sad or worried. If queer Latin@s were more present in the mainstream the general public would have more awareness about the needs of these young people and adults would be better prepared to help Latin@ youth confront issues that are specific to them. Family is extremely valuable in the Latino/a community and the love is there but the knowledge around LGBTQ Latin@s needs to expand.

Photo By Victoria Ramos

Photo By Victoria Ramos

LGBTQ Latin@s need their place in mainstream culture not only to improve their living conditions in their current communities, but also to expand the general knowledge of LGBTQ Latin@ issues. LGBTQ Latin@s are rarely the focus of LGBTQ and reproductive health advocacy, and almost never the focus of the general public. While LGBTQ Latin@s are fighting many of the same battles as other LGBTQ people, without focus or representation many issues specific to queer Latin@s go ignored. For instance immigration status has a huge effect on many Latin@s ability to access their reproductive rights and though immigration status may not seem to affect the entire queer community it must be addressed to serve the needs of a community as a whole. It is much more challenging for LGBTQ people to access all their healthcare needs than it is for heterosexual cisgender people. For LGBTQ immigrants, addressing all of their medical needs can be impossible. Currently, there is no way for a same-sex undocumented couple to be recognized at all. These are issues specific to queer Latin@ that cannot be ignored. Immigration reform is not something that can wait, it cannot be put to the side while other LGBTQ issues are dealt with in the spotlight.

The lack of queer Latin@s acknowledged by popular culture creates the illusion that these people do not exist. It denies Latin@ youth the role models they need and deserve. Having queer or Latina representation is not enough,  queer and Latina folks must be represented and acknowledged by the mainstream media. Both Latino/a communities and the general public need to gain greater awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ Latin@s. If we had more (or any) positive queer Latin@s represented in popular culture maybe people would stop trying to make Latin@s have to pick and choose which parts of their identity to accept. Maybe the minority of parents of Latin@ youth who are unsupportive would have someone to look to and help them come to terms with their child’s identity and maybe Latin@s would be targeted less often by people who are afraid of difference. To say Latin@s need to be represented by mainstream media is not entirely accurate. We don’t need a queer Latin@ star to validate our identities but we deserve our place in popular culture. We don’t need a famous Latin@ to prove that we exist because we’re certainly here and we’re not going anywhere. The mainstream needs Latin@ representation because we’re not getting any less queer or any less Latina and everybody needs to get used to it. With or without a celebrity advocating for us we are entitled to our identities. We are here and there will be more of us. We’re also fabulous and anyone turning a blind eye to us is seriously missing out.

The Social Justice Sexuality Project

http://www.slideshare.net/socialjusticesexuality/lgbt-latinos-in-the-social-justice-sexuality-project-vs-us-latinaos

Latino Youth Report

http://www.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/LatinoYouthReport-FINAL.pdf

Images were found on Vanessa Ramos’ WordPress, Follow Her Here:http://varphoto.wordpress.com/author/luxvideri/

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Young woman holding her child, who is holding a sign that says "Soy Poderosa and my voice matters because I will fight for a better tomorrow for my daughter and I"

Jóvenes poderosas!

Hace unas semanas, el Instituto Nacional de Latinas para la Salud Reproductiva (NLIRH por sus siglas en inglés) tuvo la gran oportunidad de acompañar a un grupo de madres jóvenes de Nueva York a Washington, DC. En Washington, estas jóvenes hablaron con congresistas y nuestros colegas sobre sus experiencias como madres jóvenes y la situación de las madres jovenes en sus vidas y comunidades. Hablaron de cual es el problema en realidad cuando se trata de las madres jóvenes (es decir, la falta de acceso a recursos como cuidado de salud incluyendo anticonceptivos y al cuidado de niños asequible) y como el presupuesto nacional afecta a estas familias.

El presupuesto nacional es importante para las madres y familias jóvenes porque en este se dedican los fondos para programas imporantes para la salud de esta comunidad – programas como el Título X, el cual provee cuidado de salud reproductiva, y programas como el Fondo de Desarrollo y Cuidado de Niños, el cual provee cuidado para los niños de algunas mujeres de bajos ingresos.  Pero por las divisiones corrientes en el Congreso, es posible que, en vez de decidir con cuidado donde se puede recortar el presupuesto para poder bajar la deuda del país, se hagan recortes devastadores a través del presupuesto entero, recortando y a veces eliminando programas esenciales para las latinas. Este método de recortes es el secuestro fiscal (“sequestration” o “sequester” en inglés).

Este plan de recortes se diseñó para obligar al Congreso a tomar decisiones difíciles; nunca se tuvo el propósito de que estos recortes entraran en vigor. Pero ahora, por falta de acción del Congreso, es posible que  esta sea nuestra realidad. Recortar los gastos de esta manera simplemente no tiene sentido.

En vez de recortar programas que afectarían a las familias jóvenes y a las Latinas de bajos ingresos, el Congreso debe recortar el déficit mediante el cierre de vacíos legales de impuestos corporativos y la suspensión de subsidios a las compañías petroleras grandes en un momento en que estas jamás han sido tan rentables.  Podemos ahorrar dinero si les recortamos los subsidios a los millonarios y modificamos el código de impuestos de manera que sea más sencillo y más justo para las familias Latinas.

Por ahora, estamos esperando el próximo paso, listas para tomar acción. No podemos dejar que simplemente recorten los programas esenciales para las latinas sabiendo que hay mejores maneras de que el país pague la deuda nacional.

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Since day one, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health has been arguing that contraception is important for the health and well-being of Latinas and our communities.

Today, President Obama announced an accommodation to the rule requiring most employers, excluding houses of worship, to provide health insurance that covers contraception. NLIRH applauds the new rule as it will provide women with “seamless access to birth control without expensive co-pays while providing accommodation to religiously affiliated employers.”

However, we know this issue won’t go away. As you may recall, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) recently introduced a bill that would undermine the provisions in the Affordable Care Act related to women’s health and reproductive health services by dramatically broadening refusal protections.

Thus, as the coversation continues, NLIRH will continue to deliver the facts.

Check out our fact sheets in English and in Spanish.

Here is a sneak preview of the facts:
- A rollback on insurance coverage for contraception will hurt Latino families and will not end the political debate.
- The overwhelming majority of Latinas, including Catholic Latinas, use contraception.
- Most Latinas, including Catholic Latinas, support the coverage of contraception.
- Contraceptive coverage without co-pays is good for the health of women, good for the well-being of their families and good for our communities.
- Latino community leaders support birth control coverage.

You can also join us on Facebook, by sharing a Valentine to Secretary Sebelius, and on Twitter, where you can tell us what you will do #with600dollars that you will be saving each year thanks to no co-pays for birth control! You can also follow our hashtags #iheartbc and #bcftw.

Please join us by thanking the President and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius by tweeting @BarackObama and @Sebelius or posting your thanks on their Facebook pages! This rule could save you and your family $600.00/year, so it’s a big deal!

The fact sheets are Just the Facts: Latinas and Birth Control Coverage in English and Sólo los hechos: Las latinas y la cobertura de los anticonceptivos en español.

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Over these past few months, you have read several things from us about this thing called the “Supercommittee.”

Need a quick refresher?  To sum it up, the Congressional bi-partisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, created by the Budget Control Act of 2011 in August, was tasked with proposing at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over the next ten years. The Supercommittee received thousands of recommendations and letters from various stakeholders, but the process has been very hush-hush.

Well, Politico reported yesterday that the Supercommittee failed. Specifically, they failed to produce an agreement that 7 of the 12 members of the committee could approve and submit to Congress.

So, what does all this mean?

Now we move into a process called sequestration, where, starting January 2013, automatic cuts to a wide-range of discretionary spending programs (both defense and non-defense programs), including some that serve low-income individuals, will take place. That sounds and is pretty bad, but Congress could pass legislation before then to change the rules of this process. President Obama, though, announced his intention to veto any legislation that creates an easy “off-ramp” from this process.

This presents a great challenge, but also a great opportunity.

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What if the federal government took action against the long-standing health disparities between groups of different race, ethnic group,  immigration and citizenship status, English proficiency,  sexual orientation and socioeconomic status? Sounds pretty awesome, right?!?

Well, we are closer than we have ever been thanks for the recent introduction of the Health Equity and Accountability Act (H.R. 2954)!

The Health Equity and Accountability Act was introduced on September 15th 2011 by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA-9th) with the support of the Congressional Tri-Caucus – the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus – and has 72 co-sponsors.

The Latina Institute is proud to note that its recommendations on the issues of affordable mental health services, culturally appropriate care and expanding support for community health services were adopted into the final draft of the bill.

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A week ago, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) voted to cut the media’s long-controversial—and fortunately, not uniform—practice of calling people the dreaded and demeaning i-word. Surely, you know what word I’m talking about: “illegal,” “illegal immigrants,” “illegal aliens.”

For years, the media have taken the liberty of constantly demeaning those folks who not only made this country but who continue to build it, drive it, nurse it, mow it, clean it, and feed it. The use of the i-word has gotten large swathes of the population up in arms—sometimes literally!—by fueling anti-immigrant sentiment. They come here to take our jobs! (No, they really don’t). They are all criminals! (Hardly). They drain our public benefits! (Where do I even begin? “They” are typically ineligible for benefits, not that the U.S. is known for having any kind of magnanimous social safety net. Besides, many of “them” pay taxes on the insultingly low wages they earn doing some of the hardest and most dangerous jobs around.)

Meanwhile, for some of us, just reading the i-word in print is enough to make our stomachs turn—personally, hearing it spoken aloud makes my blood boil. I have a few choice words for the i-word lovers: what part of inappropriate, insensitive, insulting, and inhumane don’t y’all understand?  So today, I’m ecstatic that we should see the i-word being phased out of use in the media. This judgmental (not to mention usually misleading and often inaccurate) term never had a place in respectable media outlets, and it will be refreshing to see those outlets give the i-word its due.

We like to think America is great, and sometimes it really is. But immigrants are what made this country great in the first place and will continue to make us great, and we need to remember that. The media play an important role to play in keeping us informed and keeping us democratic, so thank you to SPJ for taking this initiative—it is truly inspired and truly inspiring.

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