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California Latinos are less likely to have health insurance due to a lack of employer-provided coverage and access barriers revolving around lack of citizenship. Latinos also experience less access to health services, ultimately resulting in poorer health outcomes, according to a 2019 Affordable Care Act report.

Less healthcare access means fewer opportunities for reproductive wellness. Combine these access disparities with taboos and religious influence, and it’s easy to understand why the stigma around abortion continues to linger in Latino culture.

Across ethnic and racial groups, Latinas placed highest in perceptions of stigma from family and friends, according to a 2020 research article by M. Antonia Biggs and Diana Greene Foster of the New Standards in Reproductive Health and Katherine Brown of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, University of California-San Francisco. The article also states those seeking reproductive health services found that religion was strongly associated with the prevailing abortion stigma.

However, there seems to be a shift occurring with the newer generations favoring abortion access. In the U.S., 58 percent of Hispanics think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a recent Pew survey

As the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to reverse Roe v. Wade, CALÓ NEWS spoke with six Latinas who shared their experiences with terminating pregnancies with hopes of reducing stigma and showing solidarity with others who have experienced having an abortion as well as with those who may undergo the experience one day. 

Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.


Maria Garnica, 27, Wilmington, CA, Actor, She/Her, Mexican/Salvadoran

Maria Garnica

WAS THE ABORTION EASILY ACCESSIBLE FOR YOU? 

It was accessible to me. I knew exactly where I needed to go. Planned Parenthood was very helpful.

BEFORE GOING TO A DOCTOR, DID YOU CONSIDER MEDICINAL METHODS OR SELF-INDUCED ABORTION?

Before going to Planned Parenthood, I shared with a friend that I needed an abortion and she offered to give me some abortion pills that she never used but bought online. She offered in case I needed to pay for the pills out of pocket which can be expensive, but thankfully I did not pay out of pocket.

DID YOU FEEL STIGMATIZED BY FAMILY OR WAS YOUR FAMILY SUPPORTIVE?

I shared it with my sister and she asked me if I was sure that I wanted to go this route. I said yes. I know that having kids is not something I want for myself, so in case of an accidental pregnancy, an abortion would be my only option. I did not, nor do I feel shame. I knew it was the best choice for me and having a baby would not have been in my best interest.

DO YOU FEEL LATINOS USUALLY FEEL STIGMA AND SHAME AROUND ABORTION AND SEXUAL HEALTH BECAUSE OF THE RELIGIOUS INFLUENCE IN THE CULTURE AND THE MACHISMO OFTEN PREEMINENT IN THE COMMUNITY?

Absolutely. It revolves so much around women, and men are never included in that discourse even though they are the reason we can get pregnant in the first place. Religion also plays a huge role. They claim, “If you have an abortion, you’ve murdered a baby.” Yet the Catholic church has a reputation for covering up sexual abuse cases and protecting sexual offenders in which children are very often the victims.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO TELL YOUR ABORTION STORY AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE CONTEMPLATING HAVING AN ABORTION?

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma associated with abortions. I wanted to share my story because I am not ashamed. I was not ready to have a baby, nor will I ever be. My advice to anyone contemplating an abortion is that whatever your reason for having an abortion, it’s valid. It’s nobody’s business as to why you decided to have one. Ultimately, you know what’s best for you more than anyone else.

Jessy Rosales, 26, Los Angeles, Justice Adocate, She/Her, Salvadoran

Jessy Rosales

WAS THE ABORTION EASILY ACCESSIBLE FOR YOU? 

No, I had no money, didn’t have a proper support system and no understanding of medical insurance jargon. When I was going through this, I was dirt poor living off Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) money. I found out relatively early. So the procedure maybe would have cost me $300, which as a college student is a lot, but not the worst. But by the time I was actually able to go and get an abortion, it was around $700. 

BEFORE GOING TO A DOCTOR, DID YOU CONSIDER MEDICINAL METHODS OR SELF-INDUCED ABORTION? 

My head was too busy trying to raise the money for the legal procedure. 

DID YOU FEEL STIGMATIZED BY FAMILY OR WAS YOUR FAMILY SUPPORTIVE?

My parents love me, we may not agree on everything, but they love me to death. I was so scared to tell them that I was having premarital sex. Two, It was unprotected sex, despite the fact that I was on birth control. Three, I ended up pregnant. And four, I wanted an abortion on top of that.

But once I finally did, my mom was like, “Girl, I’ve had one too.”

DO YOU FEEL LATINOS USUALLY FEEL STIGMA AND SHAME AROUND ABORTION AND SEXUAL HEALTH BECAUSE OF THE RELIGIOUS INFLUENCE IN THE CULTURE AND THE MACHISMO OFTEN PREEMINENT IN THE COMMUNITY?

This is not to invalidate anyone’s experience, but we need to lean off of the idea that all Latinos are a monolith. Let’s not have this defeatist attitude that all Latinos are inherently conservative. My mom was conflicted, but now she celebrates it. She’s Salvadoran, and in El Salvador, having a miscarriage is a federal offense. A felony. So for her, abortion symbolizes freedom, liberation and the ability to live your life. 

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO TELL YOUR ABORTION STORY AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE CONTEMPLATING HAVING AN ABORTION?

When I first was going through it, I didn’t know anyone else who had an abortion. So I felt compelled to start sharing my story, because I know how isolating that feeling was of, ‘Oh my God, I’m the only one that’s going through this.’ But from the data that I was reading, it was one in three. My advice is to be bold and unapologetic about having an abortion.

Melissa Ramirez, 20, Los Angeles, Student, She/Her, Mexican

Melissa Ramirez

WAS THE ABORTION EASILY ACCESSIBLE FOR YOU? 

I got an abortion during stricter Covid protocols, so I had to schedule an appointment online and it was a little more difficult. I did not know clinics usually advertise walk-ins. When I arrived at my appointment, they said I had to reschedule [and go] to another clinic that specifically provides abortion. So, I had to reschedule my appointment via phone this time. The process was not bad, but not great either. The person setting up my appointment was pretty impatient since I didn’t know what options I had with regard to the type of abortion procedure I wanted. She didn’t have time to discuss it with me either. I didn’t know how to answer any of the questions about medical coverage and I felt rushed into it. I went to the clinic in Highland Park and they went over the options, but never mentioned the resources they offered others, like counseling and mental health wellness post-procedure. 

BEFORE GOING TO A DOCTOR, DID YOU CONSIDER MEDICINAL METHODS OR SELF-INDUCED ABORTION? 

I didn’t know much about my options. I didn’t know anything because I wasn’t ever educated on abortion.

DID YOU FEEL STIGMATIZED BY FAMILY OR WAS YOUR FAMILY SUPPORTIVE?

I did not tell my family at all. All I have is my mom, she’s a “tough” lady. We wouldn’t talk so much about our emotions, we would just “tough it out.” Having an open space to talk about feelings wasn’t really common, or even sexual health or the “sex talk.” It was a Católico standpoint where “Tienes que esperar para el matrimonio” (You must wait until marriage). Birth control wasn’t talked about at all, so if those things weren’t discussed in my household, abortion was considered taboo. 

DO YOU FEEL LATINOS USUALLY FEEL STIGMA AND SHAME AROUND ABORTION AND SEXUAL HEALTH BECAUSE OF THE RELIGIOUS INFLUENCE IN THE CULTURE AND THE MACHISMO OFTEN PREEMINENT IN THE COMMUNITY? 

Yes, I feel like it’s more prominent in the community. I do consider machismo a major factor, too. I would also say that it’s just not a common topic of conversation. Based on my own family, my parent never mentioned it and I feel like a lot of Latino parents do not talk about sexual health in general because they don’t want to encourage the idea of sex and pregnancy. I feel like accessibility is another factor. Latinos don’t usually have access others may have with insurance.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO TELL YOUR ABORTION STORY AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE CONTEMPLATING HAVING AN ABORTION?

The reason I’m sharing my story is that I wish I had someone to talk to about it at the time. I really wish I had someone to support me through it because it was the loneliest I ever felt in my life. I had to deal with the fact that there are people in society, in my community and even in my own family who condemn people who get abortions as “murderers.”  

I would’ve told my younger self, ‘Do what you feel is best for yourself, don’t think based on what others might think of you. Do what you know is best for yourself because you know yourself more than anyone.’ I would give that advice to someone experiencing what I went through. Don’t give others power over your choice.

Yvette Rodriguez, 25, Lakewood, Cake Decorator, She/Her, Mexican

Yvette Rodriguez

WAS THE ABORTION EASILY ACCESSIBLE FOR YOU? 

I had just turned 17 when I got my abortion. I was scared to tell anyone for months because I was so scared of what others would think of my choices. It wasn’t hard to find a place but it was expensive. Unfortunately at the time, my dad had me under his insurance and I didn’t want him to find out about it. My mom and I had reached out to my maternal grandma to help us pay out of pocket for the abortion. It came out to a little over $1,000.

BEFORE GOING TO A DOCTOR, DID YOU CONSIDER MEDICINAL METHODS OR SELF-INDUCED ABORTION? 

Because I was so young and naive, I would do stupid things trying to help myself out of that situation without thinking. I would hit myself on the stomach, take my mom’s pain medication, not eat for a few days and just drink water. I didn’t know what I was doing was so dangerous at the time, my only thought was ‘Get it over with.’

DID YOU FEEL STIGMATIZED BY FAMILY OR WAS YOUR FAMILY SUPPORTIVE?

My mom and grandma were supportive. I had told two of my friends, and one of them told someone at school who didn’t like me. They told a good handful of people and it was at that point I felt very much ashamed. To this day, I haven’t told anyone on my father’s side because I’m afraid they’ll judge me.

DO YOU FEEL LIKE LATINOS USUALLY FEEL STIGMA AND SHAME AROUND ABORTION AND SEXUAL HEALTH BECAUSE OF THE RELIGIOUS INFLUENCE IN THE CULTURE AND THE MACHISMO OFTEN PREEMINENT IN THE COMMUNITY?

I do. One of the main reasons I haven’t told my father’s side of the family is because they are extremely traditional and very religious. They say certain things about abortion that make me uneasy to talking to them about the topic in general. They say things like, ‘The women denied gifts from God’ or ‘What about the boyfriend/husband’s choice?’ 

I still don’t think I’ll ever tell them.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO TELL YOUR ABORTION STORY AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE CONTEMPLATING HAVING AN ABORTION?

I’ve kept my story to myself, but now women are losing their right to choose what they can and can’t do with their bodies.

I want to share my story to help anyone open their eyes and see that banning abortions wouldn’t stop people from trying. Even if it means putting themselves in danger or keeping it a secret. 

If there’s anyone contemplating getting an abortion, all I have to say is that mistakes happen. It’s okay to try again later when you’re ready.  

Do what you feel is best for you, nobody else but you.

Gabriela Ortiz, 25, Los Angeles, Hair Stylist, She/Her, Salvadoran/Mexican

Gabriela Ortiz

WAS THE ABORTION EASILY ACCESSIBLE FOR YOU? 

It was rather easy. I went to a family friend who was a doctor, took a pregnancy test and was referred to Planned Parenthood. They were very helpful and quick to have everything set up for me.

BEFORE GOING TO A DOCTOR, DID YOU CONSIDER MEDICINAL METHODS OR SELF-INDUCED ABORTION?

No, I didn’t consider self-induced or medicinal methods.

DID YOU FEEL STIGMATIZED BY FAMILY OR WAS YOUR FAMILY SUPPORTIVE?

Yes, my mother is a very religious woman and she doesn’t know about any of this. I felt ashamed. Ashamed that a “God” I didn’t believe in at the time was judging me. I let my close friends know; One who is religious lectured me about how selfish it was for me to have the procedure and how my own lack of responsibility led me to ‘kill a poor innocent gift from God.’ It was really hard not to feel ashamed or guilty.

DO YOU FEEL LATINOS USUALLY FEEL STIGMA AND SHAME AROUND ABORTION AND SEXUAL HEALTH BECAUSE OF THE RELIGIOUS INFLUENCE IN THE CULTURE AND THE MACHISMO OFTEN PREEMINENT IN THE COMMUNITY?

Yes. I was 20 years old and I felt I had to hide the fact that it happened. Even now, sometimes I feel bad for using the word “abortion.” Forcing anyone to have a child because they had unprotected sex is so sickening. Bringing up a “God” and religion that doesn’t apply to everyone is wrong. All I could think about while having my abortion was how I was going to hell. Not even a hell I believed in, my mother’s version of hell. I’m in therapy and I still only tiptoe about my first abortion because it’s so difficult for me to talk about. it.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO TELL YOUR ABORTION STORY AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE CONTEMPLATING HAVING AN ABORTION?

I’m not sure what inspired me. Maybe I’m hoping that through telling my story, I’ll be able to heal as well. I’ve done a good amount of therapy and have learned that other people’s opinions don’t matter. I’m the only one who knows who I am to my core and other people’s opinions on abortions don’t matter. They shouldn’t matter.

My only advice is to do what is right for you. I had my first child a year or so after my abortion and I’m not going to lie, a part of me didn’t terminate that pregnancy because I was embarrassed to be the girl who would’ve had two abortions. I love my daughter. I’ve done so much healing because of her, but I wish I would’ve waited. I wish I wouldn’t have been scared to have another abortion. Don’t let what others feel is right influence your truth. 

Melissa Sanchez, 29, San Antonio, TX, Mother, She/Her, Latina

Melissa Sanchez

WAS THE ABORTION EASILY ACCESSIBLE FOR YOU? 

With my mom’s assistance getting an abortion was pretty easy. 

I was sexually active with my long-term boyfriend (now-husband). We knew pretty early on that I was pregnant because I had severe morning sickness and missed school. My mom began to get calls from school related to my absence and from concerned neighbors who had seen me throw up on my walks. It was probably about a month later when we went to a dentist appointment, I threw up in the parking lot. My mom immediately drove us to Planned Parenthood and asked for a pregnancy test. When the nurse disclosed to my mom, with my permission, that my test came out positive, she cried. On the way back home she asked what I wanted to do and at that point, I was like, ‘What do you mean, what do I want to do?’ I don’t think I had ever considered having an abortion until she offered. She told me to think about it and all night I weighed my options. In the morning I came to a decision, ‘Mom I want an abortion.’ We called and made an appointment soon after. 

The last one was this past year in 2021, when California Senate Bill 8 went into effect.

It was the hardest one. I found out I was pregnant and I had decided then that I wanted to carry to term. The morning sickness began and so did the depression. I struggled daily and it wasn’t until I saw how my mental health affected my family, I decided I wouldn’t continue this pregnancy. In my desperate attempt to get help, I unknowingly made the mistake of going to a pregnancy crisis center. The whole appointment went fine until I disclosed that I wanted to have an abortion. The whole mood in the room shifted and they took me to the ultrasound room. They brought in 3 women who proceeded to talk to me about the risks of having an abortion and [they said] that since I was already experiencing mental health issues the abortion would exacerbate it. I left believing I was 10 weeks pregnant and feeling unworthy of even being alive. I struggled all week with my thoughts until I came across Buckle Bunnies on Twitter. I got in touch with Makayla, the founder of BB. She gave me a call and I told her my story. When I told her where I went for the ultrasound, it was then she informed me that I went to a pregnancy crisis center and that it was most likely that they lied about my gestation period. She urged me to go to an actual abortion clinic. She gave me a list of clinics to call and helped me schedule an appointment. During all this, SB8 was newly in effect so there was an outpouring of people requesting abortion services. While it was scary, Makayla assured me that we had options.

On the day of my appointment, I found out I was actually only 6 weeks pregnant. But it was too late to get an abortion in the state of Texas. Makayla came over and she comforted me. I was in a state of distress and panic. Once I calmed down, she asked me if I was open to traveling out of state for an abortion. While it was possible, I couldn’t leave my two kids before, during or after the procedure. Makayla was super supportive of my choices and offered the last option, a home abortion. I jumped on it. The next day Makayla came back with the pills and appointed herself my abortion doula. We went over the whole process, the effects of the bills and what to expect. She brought snacks, pads and a sexual health kit. My husband brought me a protein-heavy meal that Makayla requested and after we ate, we began. While it was the most painful abortion I had, the sense of relief I felt was astronomical. I didn’t want to continue this pregnancy any longer than I had to.

DID YOU FEEL STIGMATIZED BY FAMILY OR WAS YOUR FAMILY SUPPORTIVE?

I don’t think anyone in our family knew about my abortion besides my sister and our closest cousin. While I had my little sister’s support, my cousin berated me for my choice. She cried and said she’d beg for my soul in heaven and for the baby I had murdered. Her sadness turned to anger and she called me offensive names. For some reason, it didn’t bother me because all I remember was just standing there while the insults were flying and saying, ‘I made my choice.’

DO YOU FEEL LATINOS USUALLY FEEL STIGMA AND SHAME AROUND ABORTION AND SEXUAL HEALTH BECAUSE OF THE RELIGIOUS INFLUENCE IN THE CULTURE AND THE MACHISMO OFTEN PREEMINENT IN THE COMMUNITY?

From my experience, yes. Latinos carry the social stigma of abortions. To this day, my mother-in-law knows nothing about the potential children we could’ve had. Her Catholic faith runs deep and I honestly have no idea how she would react to hearing about my abortions. For the most part, I feel that my extended family is pretty progressive. I can assume that if they heard my stories, I’d be supported and not judged too harshly. I think that now in the Latino community, we’re disengaging those harmful talks and stigmas. I think my mom had a lot to do with the people that surrounded us growing up. I can’t ever recall being around a family member who had that machismo mentality. That is my experience alone and I’m grateful for it. I know others aren’t so lucky. 

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO TELL YOUR ABORTION STORY AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE CONTEMPLATING HAVING AN ABORTION?

I wanted to share my abortion story because I want other people to know that having an abortion doesn’t have to be this stain on your life and that you don’t have to be ashamed of it. Abortion is healthcare.