The past few years have been really hard for Latinas—sure, everyone has been affected by the bad economy, but we’ve had to deal with having our families torn apart and our rights to control our own bodies and make our own decisions consistently under attack. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that will change in 2012. In December 2011, the “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act” (PRENDA) was introduced, and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health—as well as many others who support women and communities of color—hoped the bill would vanish when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and at the end of last week, the mark-up of this bill was finished and it was voted out of the House Judiciary Committee. Next stop: the floor of the House of Representatives.
What could be so wrong about a bill named after civil rights heroes? In truth, everything is wrong with this bill!
The original bill title “only” misappropriates the names of two of the populations blatantly targeted by the bill: women and African-Americans. But to be more up-front about the bill’s impact, PRENDA proponents should’ve added on at least two more names to the bill’s offensive title—my picks are Fred Korematsu and César Chávez (or Dolores Huerta, since she is seriously poderosa). With these two additions, it should’ve been impossible to miss that PRENDA attacks women’s rights, but it also is a crude affront to communities of color, including African-Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and, not least, Latinos.
This legislation revives the ugly accusations of the billboard campaigns in Georgia, New York, and California that insulted Latinas and African-American women by implying that they were dangerous to their children. We know that Latinas, including Latina mothers, are the backbone of our communities and we reject any legislation that takes away the ability of a woman of color to make personal decisions about reproductive health and get the care she needs. PRENDA tries to ban and punish, with fines and even prison time, so-called race and sex selective abortion—an abortion sought, for instance, by a Latina who is horrified that her baby will also be Latin@. (Seriously! I couldn’t make this up!) This non-phenomenon is as fictional as it is insulting. Supporters of this bill don’t care about communities of color—they regularly vote against legislation that would actually help our communities and indeed voted down several amendments that would’ve been great for us. At last week’s mark-up, they even voted down an amendment to the bill that would’ve delayed the bill’s implementation until the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was reauthorized with full funding for two years!
Those who support PRENDA after only one thing: making abortion first inaccessible and eventually illegal. And in this case, women of color will be hardest hit. If you don’t believe me about the goals of PRENDA proponents, look no further than the proposed D.C. 20-week abortion ban—a piece of legislation introduced to ring in 2012 by the same legislator who sponsored PRENDA.
PRENDA is bad for our communities, plain and simple. It’s one to watch on the federal level and, unfortunately, it’s already one to watch on the state level too. The Florida legislature has introduced a bill almost identical to the federal one and—shockingly!—Arizona passed similar legislation last year.
For more information, check out our PRENDA fact sheet!