Guest Post by May Sifuentes, PPFA
Planned Parenthood’s Youth Team just concluded its Youth Organizing and Policy Conference in Washington, DC—a conference that was attended by close to 300 youth activists from around the nation and consisted of participation in a lobby day, strategic thinking and mapping, and building connections and a support system to make sure that our advocacy work for reproductive health and rights is moving forward. But for me, the conference was more than just a gathering of young leaders: it was a survey, a demonstration and vision of the resilience, the diversity, the passion, and immense action that is happening in spaces all over the United States—and is specifically being led by young people. Whether it’s raising public awareness about reproductive rights, or educating young people and their campuses and communities about sexual health, our youth work with and support their local Planned Parenthood organizations to mobilize advocates for reproductive freedom. In 2011, 76% of Planned Parenthood’s nearly 3 million patients were under 30 and 47% of patients were people of color. The issues affecting these communities then become our issues; we will work hard to make sure that everyone has access to affordable health care.
This is why the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 was so important—it will allow us to reduce the gap felt by our siblings of color, youth, LGBTQ, and other underserved communities when it comes to access to culturally sensitive, respectful and affordable health care. For young adults, the benefits of the ACA are immense—the ACA allows youth up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance plans. 3.1 million young adults have already gained insurance through this provision, and it is estimated that around 3 million more are eligible. What’s even better is that there is a larger increase in insurance and eligibility rates for youth of color—who have historically had lower insurance rates in the U.S.
And when it comes to preventive health services, the Affordable Care Act requires most health insurance plans to cover prevention services—as my abuelita always said, better safe than sorry. From Pap tests and HIV screenings, to birth control without co-pays, preventive services that are covered by insurance plans will help people of color, Latinas especially, live healthier lives overall. Latinas have high rates of cervical cancer, and Latinos represent 20% of new HIV infections in the U.S. The Affordable Care Act gives us a great opportunity to work with our communities to affect change, and make sure that folks who are eligible to be insured are.
While youth activists at Planned Parenthood know the benefits that the Affordable Care Act can have in their communities—and are actively engaged to bring that information to their localities—we also know that health has no borders and that everyone deserves to live healthy lives. We are committed to continue working with our coalition partners to advocate for health care for all.
While there is no doubt that the Affordable Care Act brings great benefits to our communities, we know that we carry immense responsibility in its success. It is up to us, as part of this movement, to make sure that our siblings, our neighbors, and our communities know how the ACA can benefit them. When the open enrollment period for health insurance plans starts this October 1, our youth activists will make sure that they once again, unapologetically and with energy and compassion, are as prepared as always to reach their communities and advocate for their rights with them as one force.