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Archive for the ‘Reproductive Justice’ 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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Earlier this year our hermanas at the Black Women’s Health Imperative (the Imperative) – the only organization devoted solely to advancing the health and wellness of America’s 20 million Black women and girls through advocacy and public policy, health education, research, and leadership development – welcomed Linda Goler Blount, MPH as the organization’s new President & CEO. We’re excited that Blount has joined the Imperative, and bid farewell to the organization’s longtime president, Eleanor Hinton Hoytt, who will be sincerely missed.

Blount is a seasoned professional, bringing with her over two decades of experience in strategy, policy, and health. She has worked at both non-profit and for-profit organizations, helping them build their brands and boost results. Prior to joining the Imperative, she held positions at United Way of Greater Atlanta, WFG Equity, American Cancer Society, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

With her leadership skills and passion for health equity, Blount hopes to make a difference the lives of the many people the Imperative serves.  She said that she hopes that her work with the Imperative will “empower women, change behavior and conversations, and influence policy makers.” While speaking to leaders from intersecting social justice movements, she extended an invitation for cross-movement building, saying “we have to do this together…the issues are too big. We can’t do it all alone. We have strengths and resources to share.”

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health familia is thrilled to welcome Blount as the BWHI’s new fierce and fearless leader. We look forward to collaborating on the many important issues that impact women of color in the fight for health equity and reproductive justice.

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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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On the 35th anniversary of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), we are reminded that women of color experience multiple forms of discrimination because of their race, gender, immigration status, sexual orientation, and yes even when they become pregnant.  In fact, this discrimination often translates into poor health outcomes for these women and their children.  Last year, researchers found that discrimination against young, pregnant, urban women of color contributed to symptoms of depression and consequently, lower birth weight, an indicator of poor future health for their children.  In that study, 62% of its participants were Latina.

Although we know women of color experience discrimination, we often don’t talk about how they suffer from workplace discrimination if they become pregnant.  Many women of color and immigrant women, particularly Latinas, are disproportionately represented in low-earning, physically demanding jobs.  For instance, more than 750,000 Latinas work in the production, transportation, and material moving occupations and another nearly 2.7 million Latinas are employed in the service industry.  There have been a disproportionate number of pregnancy discrimination claims from these employment sectors.  If a Latina becomes pregnant and her employer refuses to make slight accommodations that would allow her to stay healthy and keep her job, then she is forced to choose between her health and her paycheck.  For example, an accommodation for a cashier could be as simple as allowing her to sit on a stool rather than standing on her feet or allowing her to have additional break time.  To make matters worse, many women of color are the sole breadwinners for their household.  An employer who refuses to make these accommodations jeopardizes the economic security of a Latina and her family, and possibly, her ability to have access to health care.

One way to mark the anniversary of the PDA is to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.  Although  PDA outlaws discrimination based on pregnancy, employers are still getting away with pushing pregnant, women of color out of the workplace.  The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would build on existing law by requiring employers to give reasonable accommodations when workers need them due to pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions, just like they do for workers who face similar limitations.  As a result, it will ensure that women of color, including Latinas, can continue working while staying healthy.  If you think pregnant, women of color workers deserve fair treatment and should be able to keep their jobs, take action here.

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When I helped promotoras go door to door in Utah to educate families about the Children’s Health Insurance Program, I became increasingly aware of how confusing the health care system is for many persons, especially for aspiring citizens.  I remember how some people shut the door in my face and how I could tell if someone was at home but pretended they weren’t.  Also, I distinctly remember how my conversations with newly arrived immigrants and refugees would be the only meaningful conversations I would have that day.  Going door-to-door made me realize that one conversation may have led to one more person or family getting the affordable, quality health care they deserve.  If we didn’t have these conversations, some of these families would still have thought that they couldn’t get health care until they were in the emergency room.

I am sure today that many persons are still confused about how to access health care in this country and that will be no different after enrollment begins on October 1st and after coverage begins on January 1st.  I am thrilled that National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is a Champion for Coverage.  As a champion, we will reach Latinas, their families, and their communities who face insurmountable obstacles to health care.  We are all aware that Latinas face severe health disparities which are only aggravated by lack of access to care.  Latinas have the highest rates of getting cervical cancer and are diagnosed at twice the rate of non-Latina white women.  Transgender Latinos/as may not receive the critical cervical cancer screenings they need because of provider discrimination.  For many Latinas, the cost of contraception is prohibitive, forcing many to go without it.  For these reasons, and many more, we are honored to help educate our community.

At this moment, we Latinos/as have an opportunity to receive the health care we need.  All health plans that will be offered on the Health Insurance Marketplaces will be required to cover preventive health services, the very life-saving care that Latinos/as need to treat and screen cervical cancer and other illnesses.  For the very first time, these same plans cannot discriminate on the basis of sex or gender identity, an important step in improving the health of our LGBTQ community members.  However, we aren’t going to get the care we need unless we all chip in and charlamos con nuestras hermanas, nuestras madres, nuestras tías y nuestras familias.  For more information about how you can enroll, please go to HealthCare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov.  For more information on enrollment options for our LGBTQ hermanos y hermanas, please go to http://out2enroll.org/.  

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