On Monday, President Obama delivered the proposed budget for fiscal year 2011 to Congress.
We are grateful that the Administration has expanded federal funds for Title X family planning programs and clinics, which invest in reproductive health and wellness for Latinas and immigrant women and provide reproductive health care to many Latinas. Latinas have the highest uninsured rate of women of any other racial or ethnic group, at 37%, and it is critical that during our national economic crisis we continue to offer an essential source of reproductive health and preventative services, especially for low-income women.
It is also good news that the President has increased funding for evidence-based sex education and for community health centers, which are an essential source of reproductive and preventive health care for low-income Latinas and immigrant women.
However, we are deeply disappointed with the President’s decision to preserve the harmful provision known as the Hyde Amendment in the FY 2011 budget. A woman’s ability to access a legal, safe abortion remains under attack, and as evidenced by health care reform debates, the Hyde Amendment only serves as ammunition. Over a quarter of women on Medicaid are Latinas, and low-income Latina and immigrant women are disproportionately impacted by restrictions to abortion access. Preserving this provision will enable a politically-motivated barrier to continue and restricts safe, legal abortions for poor women.
While it is important to recognize that the budget includes some victories for reproductive health access, it is also crucial to speak out against provisions that prevent true reproductive justice. Basta! 33 years is enough!
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The ongoing effort to reform our health care system received a shock on Tuesday with Scott Brown’s upset win against Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts Senate election race to replace the late Edward M. Kennedy Jr.. This means that Democrats no longer have the filibuster-proof 60-seat majority to pass health care reform as planned, and are currently in the process of re-assessing their efforts and strategies.
Several options have been put forward, but it is as-of-yet unclear what strategy will prevail. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has already announced that the House will not adopt the Senate bill, a strategy that would have avoided another vote in the Senate. The Senate version of the health care reform legislation includes the problematic Nelson-Casey provision that would place tremendous bureaucratic obstacles for abortion to be included in insurance packages in the Exchange. Additionally, the Senate bill would not allow undocumented persons to purchase health insurance from the Exchange with their own money. Another option, one put forward by President Obama, would be to pass a smaller, pared-down bill that encompasses some “core elements” of the reforms currently being proposed. Yet another option would rely on the budget reconciliation process. What has become clear, however, is that lawmakers are operating under different circumstances than they were before the Massachusetts election results.
Staff from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) visited the offices of key legislators this week, and we will continue to work towards the best possible package. Legislators said they have received a record number of phone calls and letters from our activists on the ground and in their districts. We must sincerely thank you for your support and continued hard work – your voices are being heard.
As we commemorate the 37th Anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, it is critical for us to advance a national reproductive justice agenda. We will continue to update you as this situation develops, and continue to demand that health care reform not be passed on the backs of women and immigrants. ¡Que siga la lucha!
The NLIRH staff
P.S. Check out some of our recent media hits related to health care reform!
RH Reality Check: “Securing Real Choices Means Going Beyond “Choice”
Silvia Henriquez, NLIRH Executive Director on GritTV
Houston Chronicle: “Now is the time for Latinas to speak up!”
CNN.com: “Latinas need a voice in the abortion debate”
New York Times Letter to the Editor by Silvia Henriquez
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The fight for health care reform has reached its last stage, and the bills passed by the House and the Senate are currently being merged by Democratic leadership. It has been long and it has been tough, and now we are advocating for the best possible result even though closed-door meetings have replaced an open conference process. Our efforts have not led us where we would have liked given the momentous opportunity that health care reform presented. Certainly, the final bill will contain a number of key provisions that will improve the way people access health care by ending pre-existing conditions exclusions, expanding Medicaid, and ending gender-rating (the practice of charging women more than men for similar policies). Although we knew from the beginning that this legislation would not create a system of truly universal health care, we dedicated our best efforts into improving reform options for Latinas and their families.
Activists and staff from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) have been engaging legislators in DC and in their home districts on a weekly basis with visits, letters and phone calls. We are reminding them that Latinas do want and need abortion coverage, and that immigrant families must be able to access the health care system.
We will not stand silent as this battle is fought on the bodies of women and immigrants. For the past several years NLIRH has been fighting to repeal the Hyde amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion coverage, except in the case of rape, incest or life endangerment of a woman. Though the amendment offered by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) in the House bill represented a compromise that maintained the status quo established by the Hyde Amendment, it was a compromise we were willing to make so that the health care reform process would not come to a halt. For some in Congress, the painful concession in Capps was not enough. The amendment offered by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) in the House and the “compromise” by Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) in the Senate stopped just short of banning abortion coverage in private insurance policies. If either Stupak or Nelson’s provisions are included in the final bill, health care reform will enact some of the most egregious and detrimental setbacks to abortion rights since the seventies. 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 care out-of-pocket, which puts them at risk for seeking alternative, unsafe abortion methods.
NLIRH will continue to advocate for real and meaningful health care reform. We are still working tirelessly by organizing our base and reaching out to key legislators to let them know that women and immigrants must not be left out. Thank you for your continued support – we cannot do this without you. La lucha sigue!
The NLIRH team
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The National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights just released a statement applauding the removal of the HIV travel ban:
The ban, which was in place since 1987, was anachronistic and reflected a fundamental misunderstanding about HIV/AIDS and how it is spread. The public health community has long recognized that it is inappropriate to classify HIV as a “communicable disease of public health significance,” as that term is understood to apply to diseases that can be transmitted by casual contact.
This is an important victory – a step closer to reproductive justice for all.
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To those of you that have been paying attention to NLIRH’s work during the long process to craft and pass health care reform legislation, it might seem as though what was a flurry of action at the end of the year has died down. Behind the scenes, however, we are hard at work. Though many provisions in both the Senate and the House version of the health care reform legislation are deeply flawed, NLIRH is not ready to give up. We are currently developing strategies and materials for the last leg of this struggle, and we are continuing our work both with activists on the ground and our colleagues in the movement to ensure that the merged bill comes out free of provisions that are hurtful to women of color, low-income people, and immigrants.
The Senate and House versions of the bill will be merged soon, but right now it is not clear exactly how that will happen. Though legislation typically enters a conference committee made up of members of both the House and Senate to resolve differences and emerge with a final bill, there is speculation that health care reform will undergo an alternative process in order to avoid Republican stalling tactics.
Stay tuned – we will need all your help soon!
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Check out this short video clip of NLIRH Executive Director Silvia Henriquez speaking at the Stop Stupak Rally in Washington, DC on December 2nd!
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It was 5:53 in the morning. The rain was pouring down, and the No. 6 train uptown was now ten minutes late. None of that mattered though, I was excited. I knew that in just a few hours I would be in a different city, completely, being an advocate for what I believe in. I was going to participate in a rally that would voice concerns over the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to Health Care. While representing NLIRH as an intern, and with other advocacy groups like Planned Parenthood, the Feminist Majority Foundation, NARAL, Advocates for Youth, NOW, the Hispanic Federation, Voces Latinas, the Pro-Choice Education Project, and countless others, I was going to stand up for women’s and reproductive rights.
The Stupak Amendment does not affect only women and people of color. As a man, I understand that my voice against human rights violations is just as important. My intersections of identity — man, Latino, gay, Catholic — are all important in fighting for equality. Some people think that just because you’re a man, you can’t be a feminist. The truth is, I am a man AND I am a feminist. I have no place in taking away the human rights of a woman. That said, I will continue to fight these rights. The bus we took to D.C. We were all united for women’s rights, regardless of gender, race or age. (more…)
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