The University of California, Los Angeles Latino Policy and Politics Institute (UCLA LPPI) last week hosted a webinar event discussing the continued attacks on reproductive freedoms and the important role of Latinas in the fight for reproductive justice and the right to self-determination.
This summer’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization took away Americans’ constitutional right to abortion. The webinar brought together Latina leaders at the forefront of the local reproductive justice movement to discuss how they got here, the impacts of the Dobbs decision on Latinas and their bodily autonomy, and the economic wellbeing and political inclusion of Latinos in American democracy.
This panel of a half-dozen experts explored state-level abortion protections and funding resources fo abortion health care providers. In addition, they focused on meaningful comprehensive federal legislation that would better abortion care and reproductive freedoms.
Sonja Diaz, a practicing civil rights attorney in Los Angeles and the Director of UCLA LPPI, shared with the audience how valuable she thought this panel is to the ongoing cause.
“These Latina leaders across sectors from journalism to community organizing advocacy are going to be able to share the spotlight of what is happening,” Diaz said.
Astrid Galvan, Editor at Axios Latino and moderator of the event, contributed important information and directed questions to the panelists. In one of her questions, she asked how have the laws impacted Latinas specifically and what were some of the places the panelists have seen drastic impacts.
Lupe Rodríguez, Executive Director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, responded to Galvan’s question about impacts, stating that communities of color and Latinx communities don’t have access to health care and abortion care. Abortion is more common in the Black and Hispanic communities, according to Politico. Rodríguez also emphasized that there are many barriers to accessing healthcare for people of color, from having access to being able to afford it. Rodríguez also said that her time and role at the Latina Institute have highlighted even more for her how the existing systemic inequities and access to health care harm the Latino and Latinx communities. She also noticed the impacts the Dobbs case is having on Planned Parenthood and other abortion care providers, which are limiting resources, adding more clients from out of state, and grappling with a myriad of legal considerations.
The majority of people without insurance sought care in public clinics, where these services were available without insurance for free or at a low cost, panelists said. This decision has closed down a lot of centers and has taken away that care for many people. Since June, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas have imposed total abortion bans, according to Guttmacher Institute.
Galvan went on to ask, “How were [Latina] women suffering economically when they don’t have access to safe abortions?”
Cathy Torres, Organizing Manager at Frontera Fund – National Network of Abortion Funds, believes everyone should have the right to determine when, and how to create a family, and also the right to access information, resources and abortion care for themselves and their families. Torres told the online audience that the reason behind the existence of this organization was in part due to the recent strict bans on abortion in nearby Texas, likely causing an influx of people into California for abortion care.
“When people don’t have access to abortion care something that they have every right to access,” Torres said, “the sense or ripple effect to their ability to plan their futures, plan their families futures, make decisions on parenting and also having the decision of not parenting, is why we have to do this work of reproductive justice.”
Torres also said that Latinos in the Lower Rio Grande Valley have been impacted by systems that make social mobility difficult for people who are just trying to make ends meet. “The goal for the organization is to ensure that abortion access is available,” Torres said. “As someone who can’t get pregnant is very important that we talk about why abortion access is important not from just one standpoint but also why people are economically affected, as well.”
During the webinar, América Ramírez, from Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity & Reproductive Rights (COLOR), spoke about what the landscape looks like for women who are seeking abortion care. COLOR is a community-based nonprofit that works to enable Latinx individuals and their families to lead safe, healthy, self-determined lives. COLOR also helps women with resources to pay for transportation to clinics, as well as connecting people to other resources they might need, like health care and other health programs.
“Getting an appointment is one of the main challenges that women face,” she said. Ramírez also voiced how women of color and Latina women have been the ones at the forefront pushing for reproductive justice. She also sees difficulties in obtaining abortions for younger girls. Young people in Colorado have to maneuver laws and a certain process to obtain abortion care. Ramirez pointed out that people are even flying to Colorado to access abortion care.
Although some Latinas have the option of flying across state lines to obtain abortion care, the increased demand overall places pressure on small, poorly finded clinics, which then places limits on services that can be provided to locals. Additionally, people who are undocumented and do not speak English face additional barriers and end up at the end of the end of the line, if they can’t even find one.
In addition, Ramírez also emphasized the importance of educating Latino and Latinx communities about the needs and challenges faced by the network of abortion care clinics that serve them. Many clinics receive donations from advocacy organizations and agreeable donors.
Rodríguez also spoke about the barriers that immigrants and people of mixed status face when seeking abortion care. She stated that immigrant communities face some of the biggest barriers in terms of access to healthcare. For instance, they do not qualify for access to public healthcare services. Another barrier that Latinos and Latinx might face is something known as “the five-year immigration bar,” which is a mechanism created to keeping underprivileged people attaining healthcare.
Here’s how it works: Federal law requires many qualified immigrants to wait 5 years before becoming eligible for Medicaid. This five-year waiting period is commonly referred to as “the five-year bar.” An individual’s five-year waiting period usually begins when they receive notice of their qualifying immigration status, not when they enter the country, as some may believe or hope.
In the U.S., if you are considered to be undocumented, you do not have access to public access to healthcare and abortion care for undocumented people varies by state. In general, if you are undocummented, it means that you don’t have access to health care even if you want to pay for it.
Another barrier that people face is fear of deportation. Tores said that is a huge concern in the Lower Rio Grande Valley because of the high number of law-enforcement checkpoints in the region. These fears are often heard in Los Angeles, and California as well.