The tragic murder of Dr. George Tiller has led to a growing discussion on the topic of access to late term abortions in the United States. However, an article posted on Salon brings to light a graver situation that is not being talked about so far in the popular media: there are less and less physicians offering abortion services at all. As we see the numbers of abortion providers shrinking, it is important to realize what this phenomenon means for Latinas access to abortion in the US.
Literature on access to abortion services for Latinas points out that an important contributing factor is the availability of health care providers who speak Spanish and offer information in a way that is culturally appropriate. Also, the provider must be able to work with Latina immigrants who are less likely to have knowledge about US laws regarding reproductive rights. The lack of providers with this knowledge may affect Latina’s access to general reproductive health services.
We need to pay attention to the number of health practitioners who can provide adequate services: physicians, certified nurse-midwives, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. As the Salon article exposes, medical students are not receiving enough training on family planning during their studies (not even all OB/GYN residents have access to training in abortion procedures). In addition, the fear caused violence and threats to providers are enough to discourage health practitioners from providing these services.
As one of the few doctors who still offer late abortion in the U.S. said in a PBS interview, “You don’t have to make abortion illegal if you make it impossible.” Now, more than ever, the movement for Latina reproductive rights needs the support of professionals who work in the health services arena, especially those who are Latinos/as, in order to ensure that this service will continue to be available to the women in our communities.
If you are or are planning to be a health care provider, learn about how you can make a difference in the Clinicians for Choice website. If you’re not, find out at I am Dr. Tiller other ways in which you can facilitate access to abortion care and positively impact the health of thousands of Latinas.
Contributed by Paula Latortue-Albino, Communications and Development Intern