Archive for the ‘Racism’ 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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Post By Nicole Catá

Originally from Cortlandt, NY by way of Flushing, NY, Nicole Catá now studies at The George Washington University Law School and the Elliott School of International Affairs.  During her time as an undergraduate student at Columbia University, she worked from January to August 2010 as a policy and advocacy intern at the Latina Institute.  Nicole spent this summer as a legal intern at National Advocates for Pregnant Women and will work this fall as a student attorney for the International Human Rights Clinic at GW Law School.  Nicole will serve as the president of GW Law School’s chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice during the 2013-14 school year.

Birth Justice as a Matter of Reproductive Justice

With news of Prince George’s birth dominating the Internet, it may be helpful to highlight the lived realities of birthing experiences in the United States for women of color. Given that the royal birth cost $15,000, whereas the average cost of birth in the United States is $30,000, you have to wonder whether we’re getting what we pay for.  For poor, uninsured women of color in the United States, too often the answer is “no.”

Last year, Denene Millner published a piece called “Birthing While Black” that details the abysmal treatment she received at an upper Manhattan hospital while delivering her first daughter.  Despite having paid for “upgrades” to secure the birth experience she had envisioned, Millner catalogues a litany of maltreatments she experienced the moment her baby was born.  For example, she describes as follows:

Once in the private room, the nurses disappeared for nine hours! Seriously. Nine. I had no diapers. No idea how to breastfeed properly (and no bottle or milk to feed my baby if I chose to formula feed). No instructions on what to do to care for my post-birth body (was it okay to walk? Pee? Wash?). Nothing. I seriously thought I was being punished for asking (nicely) for what I’d paid for. When a nurse finally did show up, she came with a “gift bag” full of formula and coupons for… formula.

Millner’s piece highlights the injustices too often leveled against women of color on what should be the happiest days of their lives.  The notion that she was treated so poorly after having paid for hospital upgrades speaks volumes about what poor, uninsured women of color face when giving birth in many hospitals around the country.

We know that everyone deserves access to high-quality health care, that birth justice is a matter of reproductive justice, and that health and dignity are human rights.  Millner reminds us that everyone deserves to be treated like royalty during and after their birthing experiences.

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This week, the Rights Working Group is hosting a blog carnival on gender and racial profiling, including a blog by yours truly on the impact of racial profiling on LGBTQ Latin@s:

Though racial profiling affects LGBTQ immigrants in particular ways that are specific to their sexual orientation or gender identity, these perspectives are rarely part of the national racial profiling conversation. It is imperative that social justice advocates incorporate an analysis around racial profiling that includes the perspectives of LGBTQ immigrants.

Check out the whole piece, and other fabulous pieces over at the blog carnival, which is being updated daily!


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Today was a particularly special day for me in Washington, D.C. because I had the privilege to start my internship at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH). As soon as I stepped into the office, I was welcomed by the smiling faces of Natalie, Kimberly, and Elizabeth. I felt the positive energy beaming from these individuals as soon as I arrived and noticed that, like me, they were eagerly awaiting the decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on Arizona’s SB1070 and/or the Affordable Care Act, which many anticipated would come down on that day. The decisions for both of these pieces of legislation would not only affect the lives of many people, but particularly the lives of immigrants and people of color. It is because of this and because of the values that NLIRH upholds that everyone at the office and elsewhere was extremely eager to find out the decision from the Supreme Court in order to continue supporting the Latino/a community in the best ways possible. (more…)

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Rep. Aderholt (AL-4th), on the right, at the May 16, 2012 Mark-Up of the DHS Appropriations Bill, where he introduced the dangerous “Aderholt Amendment” restricting abortion funding for immigrant women in detention.

VAWA. PRENDA. Aderholt.

What do all these words (and acronyms) have in common?

They represent the three latest attacks on women’s health, safety, and reproductive justice. However, the War on Women has been raging continuously in the 112th Congress.  So what else connects these three?  They represent the escalating attacks on the health and rights of women of color, and immigrant women in particular—their right to reproductive health care, their access to protections from intimate partner violence and other crimes, and their right to bodily autonomy.

Let’s start with the most recent affront: the Aderholt amendment. Last night the House of Representatives passed the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act (H.R. 5855), which includes a provision (Aderholt Amendment) that targets immigrant women’s reproductive health care with unnecessary and mean-spirited restrictions on access to abortion. The provision prohibits federal funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to provide abortion care for women in ICE detention centers—adding yet another layer to the harmful restrictions the Hyde amendment already puts in place.

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), outraged over the politicized attack on some of the most vulnerable women in our society, led an effort to unite over 50 national, state, and local organizations in opposition the provision—a group that includes reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates as well as faith-based groups, advocates for Latinos health, and groups that represent immigrants, refugees, and LGBTQ people.

In a letter to the House of Representatives, this diverse group united to express deep concern that the Aderholt amendment would take us backwards, making life harder for women in federal immigration custody. Women in detention are separated from their children, their partners, and their health care providers. They have been denied HIV medication, forced to give birth in shackles, and sexually assaulted by guards. This amendment, and any restriction on access to reproductive health care, is yet another insult and humiliation for women who are already facing terrible circumstances. Immigrant women’s health should never be used as a political bargaining chip.

Rep. Adams (FL- 24) introduced H.R. 4970, a bill which takes the VAWA name, but strips protections for immigrant victims that have existed for nearly 20 years.

Rep. Adams (FL- 24) introduced H.R. 4970, a bill which takes the VAWA name, but strips protections for immigrant victims that have existed for nearly 20 years.

However, this attack did not operate in a vacuum. It represents a variation on the theme of stripping away the rights of immigrant women, a theme which is alarming, and growing. Just last month, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4970 – a bill which claims to reauthorize the historically bipartisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), but actually rolls back protections for immigrant women that have existed for almost 20 years. Since it was first signed into law, VAWA has been reauthorized twice. And each time, both parties worked together to advance protections for all victims, including immigrants. This time around, the House bill reversed protections for immigrant women and excluded advances included in the Senate bill for LGBTQ victims of violence.

And just last week, the House of Representatives attempted (but thankfully failed) to pass the so-called “Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act” or PRENDA which was engineered as an attack on the reproductive freedoms of women of color. The bill claims to outlaw abortion motivated by sex-selection, and would have imposed strict criminal and civil penalties on abortion care providers who fail to determine the motives of their patients. The bill was first introduced as the “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act” and additionally banned abortions on the basis of race of the fetus. While the race-related language was stripped from the bill, PRENDA remained an attack on color and immigrant women under the guise of protecting women, pushed forward by legislators with little to no history of supporting gender equity.

Immigrant women deserve better than this onslaught of abuse. They are mothers, daughters, tias, workers, mentors, and valuable members of communities across this country. Their ability to access reproductive health care and  protections from violence are critical to their pursuit of a healthful life in the United States and to the promise of fairness, justice, and equal opportunity.

We urge you to join us in this call to support the lives of immigrant women. Please visit the website of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health for more information.

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The extension on unemployment benefits passed on February 17th was generally seen as a positive development for struggling and low-income families – Congress passed a year-long extension of the benefits, which are crucial to making ends meet for folks who are looking for work. Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. Hidden in the bill was a provision to restrict where TANF recipients (i.e. recipients of cash assistance, also known as welfare) can get money out.

These days, folks who get cash assistance get a card that works as an ATM card, and are able to go to any ATM to remove available funds. Well, that is until now – Congress’s restriction bans recipients from using ATMs in liquor stores, casinos, and strip clubs. This measure is paternalistic, insulting, and absurd in so many ways. First, this provision ignores the fact that although it might be difficult to find something as run of the mill as a grocery store in low-income neighborhoods, there are actually significantly more liquor stores there than in wealthier neighborhoods. Did the legislators that proposed this measure stop to think that perhaps the closest ATM to many recipients of cash assistance might actually be in one of these establishments? Or that they may be the closest ATMs with low fees?

Further, we need to address the wackness of trying to restrict poor folks’ purchases. Often ignored in conversations about welfare are is that TANF recipients actually required to work – 35 hours a week in “training” programs that don’t really train anyone to do anything that’s going to get them out of poverty or even a job that pays above minimum wage, but that’s a conversation for another day. The point is that TANF recipients work, and do so for small amounts of cash assistance which, if you do the math, represents just a fraction of the minimum wage. So here we’ve got folks that are basically working for below-minimum-wage pay, and Congress wants to restrict where they’re able to get that money out based on a racialized idea of lazy welfare queens drinking their days away. Would Congress ever think to try to restrict the purchases of other workers?

Latinas and women of color are disproportionately poor, and this affects women of color and our families most of all. This is not only absurd, it is racist, and it is unnecessarily intrusive into the lives of low-income folks. If Congress is truly concerned with addiction among poor folks, can we see them invest in quality rehabilitation programs? Can we see them invest in the lives of women? Can we see them address the painful social and economic conditions that addicts are trying to numb? Economic justice is reproductive justice – all women deserve to live their lives with dignidad, salud, y justicia.

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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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