"Health equity remains an unrealized dream for Latinas. Because of the Affordable Care Act, more than 4 million Latinos are now insured, and with it, have gained access to routine care, preventive screenings, and affordable contraception. Yet when it comes to reproductive health, Latinas remain among the most underserved populations in our country, and new laws restricting abortion pose a serious threat."
Some of these restrictions have made their way to the Supreme Court, which any day could weigh in with a decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a Texas case that will determine the future of abortion access. The law in question in the case, HB 2, has already forced more than half of the abortion clinics in the state to shut down. This law is poised to leave Texas with 10, or fewer, clinics, putting the health of 2.5 million Latina residents at risk.
While unintended pregnancy is at a 30-year low, impoverished Latinas still experience significant disparities, which underscores the need to keep abortion safe, legal and affordable. Unfortunately, when abortion is stigmatized, unaffordable or put out of reach by politicians, some women will resort to methods that are dangerous, ineffective or life-threatening.
For many Latinas who live along the U.S.-Mexico border, hundreds of miles from the nearest clinic and with few resources or transportation, this situation is all too real. Research shows that Latinas living near the border may be more likely to try to end a pregnancy on their own, and they’re not alone. Google search trends demonstrate the alarming demand for information about self-induced abortion on a national scale. In 2015, there were more than 700,000 Google searches for information about self-induced abortion.
While it is difficult to determine specific information about the methods Latinas might be using to end (or attempt to end) their pregnancies, studies released in 2009 suggest that methods may include taking misoprostol, an abortion pill that is safe and effective if used properly. But they may also be using other tactics that can be harmful or even life-threatening, like causing physical injury to oneself or creating various homemade concoctions.
Politicians should not stand in the way of women having a range of safe, effective and affordable methods of abortion care, and we should do everything we can to ensure that every woman has access to safe and effective abortion services when she needs it – no matter where she lives or how much money she makes. No woman should be jailed for ending a pregnancy on her own.
Latinas have fought hard for social, political and economic progress. We have made great strides in the workforce. We are more educated than ever, and we continue to be a growing influential constituency in the United States. Latinas are entrepreneurs, scientists, teachers, moms and pillars of our communities. We cannot let our march toward equity be set back by politicians who deny us health care and interfere in our personal decisions. We are still underrepresented across all fields and are paid a mere 55 cents to the dollar when compared to white, non-Hispanic males. Our health cannot be separated from our economic well-being, and Latinas must have both to achieve our dreams.
Our earned victories would not be possible without the hard work of the reproductive justice movement and coalitions like the Yo Soy partnership. Yo Soy is a national campaign to end the stigma and silence around sex education, birth control, abortion and young parenting within the Latino community. The coalition is uniting our community to raise visibility, spark conversations and dispel myths around sexual and reproductive health and rights.
As they say, la lucha continues. Let us remember the Latina trailblazers who came before us and fought for our right to vote and respect in the workplace as well as those women who continue to fight so that every woman, no matter how much she earns, her immigration status or her educational level, can make her own decisions about pregnancy and becoming a parent. Let us unite and honor them by continue the struggle for a woman’s right to decide.