Archive for the ‘Abortion’ Category

This week, Congress decided to celebrate National Women’s Health Week by undermining Latinas’ rights to safe, legal abortion in immigration detention and in the District of Columbia, and by striping advances made in the Violence Against Women Act to prosecute intimate partner violence and other crimes. Muchas gracias por nada, Congress!

Here is a run-down of what has been going down on the Hill:

DHS Appropriations Abortion Rider

Rep. Price (left) opposed the anti-abortion amendment by Rep. Aderholt (right.) Source aderholt.house.gov

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday morning decided to strip the right to abortion care for Latinas’ and all women in immigration detention when they added an amendment (the “Aderholt” amendment) to a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security. The amendment, which passed in a party-line vote of 28-21, prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion care for women under immigration detention custody. The original amendment only allowed exceptions for life and rape, but not incest. The incest exception was added later. However, as our Executive Director Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas noted in NLIRH’s press statement, “Passage of the Aderholt amendment shows remarkable contempt for some of the most vulnerable women in our community.”

This amendment was completely unnecessary, as the dangerous and restrictive Hyde Amendment already applies to women in detention. Additionally, DHS has the Performance Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS), which are comprehensive stake-holder reviewed standards for health care in detention centers. This amendment would only open the door to interpretation to restrict access to services around abortion care, like transportation, follow-up care, and counseling, in instances where detained women pay for an abortion themselves.

With high levels of rape and sexual assault in immigration detention centers, and the fact that detainees may be U.S. citizens and those whose only crime was their presence in this country, attacking access to reproductive health care in detention is a dangerous and unjust move by House Appropriations leadership.

VAWA: The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act

Rep. Sandy Adams- Sponsor of H.R. 4970, a bill that takes the VAWA name, but leaves Latinas behind. Source: adams.house.gov

Just a few hours later, on Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4970, a bill which calls itself the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In reality, this bill rolls back protections for immigrant victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) and other crimes and excludes new protections for LGBTQ and Native American survivors approved in a bill passed by the Senate to reauthorize VAWA. The Violence Against Women Act, first enacted in 1994 with strong bipartisan support, has been reauthorized several times over the past decades with a history of cooperation across party lines. However, yesterday’s move by the House of Representatives broke that strong tradition. In doing so, they advanced a bill that actually rolls back protections for immigrant women, by allowing abusers to insert themselves into an IPV survivor’s immigration proceedings, and undermines the U-visa system, which is an important tool for abused immigrant women whose immigration status is used as a form of control. This House bill also notably excludes strong provisions for LGBTQ and Native American victims that which  were approved by the Senate in their bill to reauthorize this vital tool to combat domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and other crimes.

Rep. Gwen Moore- sponsor of H.R. 4271 modeled after Senate-passed VAWA and opponent of H.R. 4970. Source gwenmoore.house.gov

To add insult to injury, the powerful House Rules Committee, which establishes rules for debating legislation, prohibited any amendments to be added to H.R. 4970 before the vote. This meant that opponents of the bill, like Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI 4th), herself a survivor of sexual violence who faced challenges prosecuting her abuser, was unsuccessful in her many attempts to remove dangerous provisions for immigrant victims and include protections for LGBTQ and Native Americans.

D.C. 20-Week Abortion Ban

And today, House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution is hoping to advance legislation to deny the right to abortion care to the residents of the District of Columbia.

Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ-2), author of the racial profiling anti-abortion bill, the so-called “Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act,” now has his sights on imposing a dangerous abortion restrictions for the women of the District of Columbia. H.R. 3803, or the “District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” relies on the medically-debated concept of “fetal pain” to strip a Latinas’ and all women’s rights to essential and potentially health- and life-saving abortion care.

The bill, in addition to imposing an unconstitutional pre-viability abortion ban, contains a number of dangerous provisions that endangers women’s health and makes women vulnerable to numerous lawsuits. While the bill contains an exception in cases where women’s lives are in danger or when they face “substantial and irreversible” harm to a “major bodily organ,” this essentially means that women have to be on the brink of death or permanent disability in order to receive the abortion care she needs to preserve her health.

Official Photo of Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton

Official Photo of Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton. Source http://www.norton.house.gov

The bill allows the “father” of the fetus, or “maternal grandparents” in cases where a minor seeks abortion care, to file a civil lawsuit against an abortion care provider who violates this bill, showing a complete disregard and distrust of women to make the best health care decision for themselves. The bill also opens up the door to any party – spouses, parents, siblings, health care providers, guardians, even the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia- to file a lawsuit against abortion providers who provide abortion care at or after 20 weeks of gestation. What legislators, and even the U.S. Supreme Court, have failed to realize is that many post 20-week abortion are absolutely essential to preserve the health and life of a woman seeking abortion care. No woman should die or become ill as a result of a pregnancy.

Again, to add insult to injury, Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Rep. Franks and author of the 20-week abortion ban, has prohibited Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton from testifying.

NLIRH will be submitting testimony for the hearing today, as well as live Tweeting from Rep. Holmes Norton’s press conference and the hearing itself.

Stay posted by following our blog as well as our Twitter page.


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For day 3 of the Health Equity Can’t Wait! blog carnival, we’ve teamed up with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to write about LGBTQ and Latin@ health, making clear the importance of an intersectional analysis and advocacy:

We will never fully understand the struggle of someone trying to access an abortion if we do not also know how being a transgender man of color has affected his experience. We cannot know an immigrant’s struggle to access culturally competent and affordable health care if we do not think about how being queer has affected where she feels safe. If we do not look at the intersections, we paint an incomplete picture and we fail to see the very real ways that multiple marginalized identities play out in people’s lives.

Check out the whole piece over at the Task Force blog!

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Today, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) is taking a strong stance in opposition to proposed federal legislation that will threaten the health and safety of young Latinas seeking reproductive health care. Our new fact sheet on The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, or CIANA, (H.R. 2299, S.1214) illustrates how this harmful piece of legislation will have particularly harsh effects on young Latin@s.

CIANA provides for fines or even prison time for an individual, other than a parent or guardian, who assists a minor in traveling to another state to obtain an abortion. The law also places burdensome and unworkable restrictions on abortion care providers to comply with the law of another state.

Although the bill’s supporters claim that this legislation will protect young people, CIANA may actually place young people in complicated and dangerous situations. While many minors do involve their parents/guardians in matters of their health, what happens to the young people who live in violent domestic situations? What about a young Latina who is seeking to terminate a pregnancy that was caused by incest? What about a Latina who knows her own circumstances and concludes that a trusted aunt, family friend, or mentor may be her best sources of support and assistance during a difficult decision and experience?

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 87% of U.S. counties have no abortion provider, so traveling long distances to seek abortion care may be necessary for many. CIANA would make it even more difficult for young people to obtain needed care, while also stripping them of support.

Despite the overwhelming negative implications of CIANA, the U.S. House of Representatives is advancing this legislation, which has the support of 163 Congresspeople, most of whom are outright opponents of abortion rights. On March 23, the bill was voted out of the House Judiciary Committee, which means this notoriously anti-reproductive health Congress could be voting on the bill soon.  The Senate version of the bill is sponsored by Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R) with the support of 32 co-sponsors and is sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Put simply, the federal government cannot mandate family communication or healthy family relationships. If CIANA were to pass, Latinas, who are younger than the general population and already face numerous barriers to reproductive health care, would face increased risks of physical harm and decreased access to the reproductive health services they need. NLIRH works for health, dignity, and justice for Latin@s of all ages and will continue to work to stop CIANA from hurting our young people, our families, and our communities.

Please visit the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health’s website today as we release a new fact sheet on CIANA, which includes an excellent scenario of how this law would play out in the life of a young Latina living in Texas.

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Veronica and Stephanie holding signs that say "Libertad, Familia: Defiende los derechos de las mujeres inmigrantes"

Stephanie and Veronica at the March for Immigrants' Rights on March 21, 2010

Yesterday, the Arizona House passed an omni-bus anti-choice law that included a ban on abortion past 20 weeks. These 20 week bans are all the rage now  in anti-choice legislating, and proposals for 20 week bans have been popping up all over the country in the last few years. The fact that this  most recent ban passed in Arizona, however, hit a nerve.

As you probably know, Arizona has one of the harshest anti-immigrant laws in the nation. And laws that criminalize immigrants and create harsh enforcement procedures do damage on a lot of fronts: they split families, they cost a lot of money. But anti-immigrant sentiment also has an effect on health. It is laws like these and the sentiment behind them that put up barriers to health care access for immigrants. Many immigrants, even some with legal documentation, cannot access public health care programs like Medicaid even if otherwise eligible; others who have found places where they could access health care that is affordable avoid going for fear that accessing this care will alert immigration authorities, or because the authorities have set up shop and are waiting outside the clinic (a practice our activists have witnessed and told us about). And abortion is health care.

You see, there are many barriers to obtaining safe, legal abortion services, and access to health care is a huge issue for immigrant women. Barriers to health care add time: time to gather up the money for the procedure, time to travel to a location where there is a provider, waiting periods, ultrasound appointments…it all adds up. For immigrant women in states like Arizona, who face many barriers in obtaining health care and abortion services, it takes time to get all the ducks in a row to get the services they need, and this ban will impact them the hardest. An abortion is not cheap, and it only gets more expensive as the weeks keep moving along; a woman may have gathered what she thinks is enough money for a procedure only to find that the price has gone up, meaning she will need more time – during which the procedure just gets more expensive.

It’s important to look at all of these systems together, for they paint a picture of who will be most affected. As usual, it is low-income women and immigrant women.




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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!


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YOU are powerful because you stand for women’s health.

We just heard that the Susan B. Komen Foundation will revise its decision to terminate service contracts with the affiliates of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Komen decision, as it stood, would have disproportionately impacted low-income women, who are disproportionately Latinas and women of color. Folks across the country raised their voices in support of Planned Parenthood, who provides essential health services to women and help decrease racial and economic health disparities.

Komen’s decision to revise demonstrates the power that you hold when you stand up and speak out in support of women’s health.

TARA SCHLEIFER is powerful because she shared her story.

Yesterday, Tara, a 42- year-old woman from Haymarket, Virginia, testified before the Virginia State Senate about her personal experience with a high-risk pregnancy.

She testified because the Virginia General Assembly had proposed legislation that would ban abortion procedures after 20 weeks of fetal gestation, allegedly on the basis that at this stage a fetus can feel pain. Bans on abortions prior to fetal viability are unconstitutional, yet the Virginia state government still considered proceeding with this ban based on this concept of “fetal pain.”

Tara’s testimony, however, highlighted the crucial reasons why politicians should not be allowed to interfere in this personal, medical decision.

At 17 weeks, Tara learned that her fetus, if brought to term, would suffer “a number of debilitating health conditions, including a heart defect that would have required multiple surgeries.” After weeks of research and discussion, she concluded that “having the baby would not only subject him to more suffering, but would leave the family financially and emotionally bankrupt and unfairly detract from the parenting of 3-year-old son Isaac.”

Laws like the 20-week abortion ban would completely erode Tara’s ability to make the best decision for her and her family. The ban would also inevitably endanger women’s health and lives, as complications in pregnancies are not uncommon.

Because of Tara’s testimony, the bill died in a vote. Republican Sen. Harry Blevins of Chesapeake, whose abstention made the bill unsuccessful and who had just previously voted for an ultrasound law, stated, “I don’t feel like I have the ability to make a decision as difficult as the one that young woman made.”

Laws that ban abortions after 20 weeks of gestation are particularly devastating to Latinas, who face myriad barriers to seeking the abortion care they need. Latinas are more likely to have difficulty with transportation, receiving child care, and financial resources, which inevitably cause delays in seeking abortion care. Latinas who live in rural areas or states with very few abortion care providers face substantial barriers to seeking timely care.

Hopefully, Tara’s story can inform other state and federal lawmakers. Currently, similar post-20-week abortion bans are being proposed in states and in Congress. In Florida, HB 839 is being sponsored by Rep. Daniel Davis (R), and in Congress, Trent Franks is proposing this ban for the District of Columbia.

We thank Tara for her courage and strength. Tara’s story reminds us that we are all powerful, because our lives, our stories and our voices matter.

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by Hannah Joseph, NLIRH  Policy Intern

What did January 22nd mean to me as the anniversary of Roe v. Wade?  I am a new policy intern working for NLIRH between semesters in college.  This position represents my first official advocacy position in reproductive rights outside of my college campus.  As part of the cohort of women born after 1973, for me, abortion has always been a protected right and an assumed possibility. Without even having to think critically about whether I would choose to have one myself, I was able to assume that having an abortion would be a possibility for me.  Does this make me “casually pro-choice”?

This question was brought to mind when reading the recent NewsWeek article that identifies a lack of intensity in young pro-choice advocates.  This sentiment is consistent with the common political trope that that young people do not care about reproductive health.  According to a NARAL survey from early 2011, 51 percent of young voters (under 30) who opposed abortion rights considered it a “very important” voting issue, compared with just 26 percent of abortion-rights supporters.  The young respondents did not view abortion as a right in need of defenders.  Does this “intensity gap” mean that the pro-choice movement is losing its young supporters? (more…)

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