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By Lucy Panza, DC Policy Intern

In a recent interview, Nevada Republican candidate for Senate Sharron Angle made a rather inconvenient blunder.  She dug herself into a pretty deep hole with her explanation of why pregnant survivors of rape and incest should not be able to access abortion.  As the Huffington Post reports:

[Interviewer Alan Stock]: What do you say then to a young girl, I am going to place it as [a previous interviewer] said it, when a young girl is raped by her father, let’s say, and she is pregnant. How do you explain this to her in terms of wanting her to go through the process of having the baby?

Angle: I think that two wrongs don’t make a right. And I have been in the situation of counseling young girls, not 13 but 15, who have had very at risk, difficult pregnancies. And my counsel was to look for some alternatives, which they did. And they found that they had made what was really a lemon situation into lemonade. Well one girl in particular moved in with the adoptive parents of her child, and they both were adopted. Both of them grew up, one graduated from high school, the other had parents that loved her and she also graduated from high school. And I’ll tell you the little girl who was born from that very poor situation came to me when she was 13 and said ‘I know what you did thank you for saving my life.’ So it is meaningful to me to err on the side of life.

Angle’s remarks are equally inflammatory and important.  They are important because, first, they demonstrate the candidate’s extreme views on abortion restrictions in a context where women and girls arguably need abortion care the most.  Second, these remarks are important for the lack of a Democratic response from incumbent Senator Harry Reid’s campaign.  Granted, Reid’s campaign website has a news page devoted to Angle’s radical opposition to women’s health.  But that does not lessen the significance of how Reid will respond this time around.  Despite Reid’s own conservative views on abortion rights, he and his advisers must come up with a statement that places him in stark contrast to Angle’s extremely insensitive and alarming position which, if she is elected, will jeopardize the health of women and girls.  This should not be a difficult or controversial task.

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By Susana Sanchez, Community Mobilization Intern

Yesterday President Obama gave a speech on immigration reform at American University in Washington, D.C.  President Obama promised that: “[the country] can create a pathway to legal status that is fair and works.” Here are some key highlights from the speech:

Undocumented immigrants:

President Obama on deportation:

“Not possible. Such an effort would be logistically impossible and wildly expensive. Moreover, it would tear at the very fabric of this nation -–because immigrants who are here illegally are now intricately woven into that fabric.”

Nonetheless, the President did not call for putting an end to deportation raids, an extremely pressing issue in our community.

He did recognize that undocumented workers are often exploited due to their legal status. He acknowledged that many get paid below the minimum wage, work at jobs where employers violate safety rules, and some do not report crimes due to fear of deportation. He also said that having an undocumented community hurts the economy because “billions in tax revenue are lost” because they are “paid under the table.” Nevertheless, the President mentioned at least twice in his speech that the country welcomes the “best and brightest” immigrants, which seemed a criticism of the many undocumented immigrants who don’t have high education levels and work primarily blue collar jobs.

Although in his speech the President affirmed his support for immigration reform, he said that undocumented immigrants should be held accountable for breaking the law. For their “eventual inclusion” in immigration reform, immigrants:

“Must get right with the law before they can get in line and earn their citizenship— not just because it is fair, not just because it will make clear to those who might wish to come to America they must do so inside the bounds of the law, but because this is how we demonstrate that being — what being an American means.”

President Obama elaborated on this concept of “getting in line” by talking about paying fines. This obviously poses issues for low-income immigrants, who already pay huge fees to get to the United States and earn less than other workers.

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By Sheila Reynoso, Research Intern

A recent report released by the Center for American Progress, Abortion Bills by the Numbers, written by Jessica Arons and Alex Cawthorne, caught my attention this week. It highlights the increase in state laws restricting access to abortion.

The health care reform bill and President Obama’s Executive Order are making it possible for states to “opt-out” of abortion coverage and pass laws that will prohibit insurance companies from providing abortion coverage in the exchange market.  Three states to this date have passed such laws, with 14 states following suit introducing laws that will either ban, limit, or a combination of both for abortions.

The report also mentions how states have passed laws that place all sorts of absurd restrictions on abortions, including (but not limited to) banning abortions based on the gender or race of the fetus; mandatory ultrasounds; and time frame limitations.  Finally, this article also comments on how much time and effort is spent lobbying for these abortion restrictions while other important legislation and programs are underfunded or cut altogether. Arons and Cawthorne highlight the irony in this:

While state legislators have been busy making abortion almost impossible to obtain for an untold number of women, they have done little to provide women with the support they need to carry their pregnancies to term, have childbirth options available to them, and raise the children they have. States are facing a budget shortfall of about $260 billion over the next two fiscal years, leading to unprecedented cuts to a variety of critical programs for vulnerable families and children, including public health programs and early childhood and K-12 education.

We need better public health programs that will provide education on contraceptive use, public health programs that will support a woman if she chooses to raise her child, and programs that will prevent unintended pregnancies.  I urge legislators to put themselves in a woman’s shoes and look at the reality of the position that these women are in, stop passing abortion laws that prohibit a woman’s right and instead move in a direction that will give women and families better reproductive health options.

By Sheila Reynoso, Research Intern

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Last night, the House of Representatives voted 219-212 to pass health care reform.

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health commends Congress and the Administration for continuing to push for much-needed health reform and we encourage the Senate to pass the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act that includes critical pieces affecting our community.

However, this battle was fought on the bodies of women and immigrants. In the eleventh hour, President Barack Obama caved to the demands of a handful of anti-choice Democrats by agreeing to use the lives of women as trade. He will use his pen to add weight to the already cumbersome abortion restrictions in the health care bill. Latinas, immigrants, and women of color are deeply affected by any language restricting abortion access – because women of color and immigrants are disproportionately poor, they are less likely to be able to pay for reproductive health care out-of-pocket, which puts them at risk for seeking alternative, unsafe abortion methods. While health reform might lead to more Latinas being covered, it leaves out a significant portion of the population. By excluding and stigmatizing immigrants and women who need abortions, we are pushing them to the shadows of our health care system and placing unfair burden on the already-strained system of community health care centers and emergency rooms. Over half of all immigrants are women, and 53% of all immigrants are from Latin America; though it has yet to be signed by the President, this bill is outdated already.

NLIRH has been working tirelessly over the past year to ensure that the health care reform process was one that included the needs of women and families in our communities.Our activists have been engaged in unprecedented numbers – evidence that the women in our communities know more than anyone else how deeply health care reform is needed. If passed by the Senate, reconciliation package will cover an estimated 9 million uninsured Latinos and increase funding for community health centers, which is a lifeline for many in our neighborhoods. In addition, 4.4 million Americans in Puerto Rico and territories will receive $6.3 billion in new Medicaid funding, increased flexibility in how to use federal funding, access to the Exchange and $1 billion in subsides for low-income residents. Finally, we also know that this bill will expand family planning under Medicaid, increasing access to preventative reproductive health care service.

However, that women were used as wedges in this process is absolutely unacceptable. Over and over, our needs were compromised away. The fact that health care reform has passed in the House represents a truly historic moment for the United States. That it is marred by the President’s inability to protect the rights of women is truly disappointing.

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NLIRH commends Congress and the Administration for continuing to push for much-needed health reform and we are pleased to see that some critical pieces affecting our community have been addressed in the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act.

If passed, the reconciliation package will cover an estimated 9 million uninsured Latinos and increase funding for community health centers, which is a lifeline for many in our neighborhoods. In addition, 4.4 million Americans in Puerto Rico and territories will receive $6.3 billion in new Medicaid funding, increased flexibility in how to use federal funding, access to the Exchange and $1 billion in subsides for low-income residents.

Because of these significant proposed changes to the Senate version of the Health Care Reform bill, NLIRH supports the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in its desire for swift passage of this historic legislation. However, we do this with the caveat that no back-room deal with Representative Bart Stupak regarding abortion access is made. We also oppose any Presidential Executive Order or other action that seeks to add additional barriers to abortion.

We understand that this legislation is not perfect. NLIRH has deep concerns about Latino immigrants and their families who will be left on the sidelines even as 31 million currently uninsured Americans celebrate the end to their long wait for reform.

We respectfully urge the White House and Congress to acknowledge – the work is not done. If Heath Care Reform passes, efforts to address the following priorities must commence immediately:

  • Fix Nelson: the two-check provision is unworkable and will enact some of the most egregious and detrimental setbacks to abortion rights since the seventies. This system must be eliminated to ensure that insurers continue to include abortion coverage in their plans.
  • Include immigrant women: over half of all immigrants are women, and 53% of all immigrants are from Latin America.  The bill does not allow undocumented immigrants to buy health insurance in the exchange, and maintains a five-year waiting period for Medicaid for lawfully residing residents.  The exclusion of new immigrants from Medicaid is not only unjust, but also bad public health policy.
  • Parity for Puerto Rico: though the reconciliation provisions are better than what the Senate proposed, residents of Puerto Rico are still a long ways away from receiving Medicaid and other federal health care support at the same level as other states of the Union.

If health reform passes, NLIRH will celebrate the $11 billion allocation for community health centers and the increase in funding and inclusion of our sisters in Puerto Rico and U.S. territories. But we will also renew our commitment to fight for the human right of all people – regardless of legal status or zip code – to health, dignity and justice.

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An anti-abortion group in Atlanta has produced several billboards that read, “Black children are an endangered species.” The anti-choice group, Georgia Right to Life, claims that too many African American women are having abortions and that this is reducing the population rate of African American children. They are also targeting Planned Parenthood for providing abortions services and claiming that Planned Parenthood is targeting African Americans specifically.

In addition, House Bill 1155 proposed to the Georgia General Assembly, states that anyone that persuades another person to have an abortion based on race, sex, or color is a criminal act and for that they must be punished. According to the recent New York Times article, Georgia Rights to Life states that they do not want any of these messages to objectify African American women, rather to shed light on a situation that is affecting the entire population.

The billboards — there are 65 now and will eventually be 80, Ms. Davis said — were created in conjunction with a new Web site, http://www.toomanyaborted.com, which says that all of Georgia’s abortion clinics are in “urban areas where blacks reside.” The Web site connects abortion to segregation, saying that after the civil rights era, racists went “underground,” and that today “abortion is the tool they use to stealthily target blacks for extermination.

Yet none of these assertions are supported by data, which according to the Center for Disease Control, shows that African American women remain amongst those with the highest rates of childbearing.

So why do Planned Parenthood’s exist in African American communities?  The purpose of Planned Parenthood is to provide women with information, offer reproductive health services, and to allow folks to make informed decisions about their health. The existence of clinics in these neighborhoods ensures better access to health care services, improving the overall health of a community.

We need to look at the bigger picture and realize the consequences that these billboards and messages will be creating. Our ally SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective suggests that if this bill passes, not only will we be taking away a woman’s right to abortion, but it will also put women’s health in jeopardy. This bill could possibly alter the relationship between a patient and a doctor, affecting the medical services that could be available to women.

These billboards are not solving a problem; they are trying to create a barrier between a woman and her right to choose. As reproductive justice advocates we work toward a world where every woman has the ability create the family she’d like to create–without fear of persecution or propaganda.

By Sheila Reynoso, Research Intern

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