Our Reproductive Health Under Attack: How a New Bill Would Affect Latinas

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Politicians have been waging a war against women across the country, pushing an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood and other free or low-cost clinics vital for our reproductive health. The amendment has already made it past the House of Representatives and could go even further if U.S. Representative Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who introduced the amendment, has his way. We talked to Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, deputy director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), to find out how this would impact us directly.

What is the status of the Pence amendment right now?

It passed the House of Representatives. We anticipate that it won’t move to the Senate. We envision that [President] Obama would do the right thing if it does pass the Senate.

Some people have the misconception that Planned Parenthood is an abortion clinic. What are some of the basic services the health centers provide?

Most of the services are not abortion services. Planned Parenthood offers gynecological exams, cervical cancer screenings, contraception, STI [Sexually Transmitted Infections] screenings; the basic health services that women need for reproductive health.

How would defunding health clinics like Planned Parenthood hurt Latinas?

A lot of this funding impacts clinics beyond Planned Parenthood. It is part of Title X [a 1970 family law that provides family planning]. That’s the funding stream. Latinas make up about 28 percent of clients that use Title X funding. It helps our community get care that they can’t afford. Many Latinas are not eligible for Medicaid. They rely on clinics that provide these services for free or low cost care. These clinics don’t check immigration status either. This bill is a target on low-income people.

What are some of the most pressing health issues facing Latinas?

Latinas have the highest cervical cancer rate. Cervical cancer is 100 percent preventable if you get regular screenings and care. We also have the highest uninsurance rate— between 38 and 41 percent of Latino families are uninsured. And Latina teens have the highest birth rate.

Why is our teen birth rate so high?

Texas has the highest teen birth rate overall in the country, but they also have terrible programs in schools about abstinence-only until marriage. We work in many Latino communities, where we hear from parents that they thought their child was getting that [sex-ed] info in school.

If this bill passes and Planned Parenthood is defunded, what are the options for those without insurance?

There’s not a lot out there. This would be devastating. Women are the backbone of Latina families. They need access to these basic services. We would just see the disparities increase. It’s sad that these [politicians] are so anti-women. Already the statistics are so sad.

Can Latinas do anything to help stop this bill?

[The NLIRH] advocates for comprehensive sexual education, which would allow for young women to have the knowledge and tools to protect themselves. We have to think about how we can de-stigmatize sex. And for women who choose to have a child at 17, we need to give them the support they need and allow them to know their choices. Pregnancy doesn’t equal birth. They can have an abortion and we support that decision.

Planned Parenthood would provide a woman with options, correct?

That’s why these low-cost programs are so important. That is one venue where they can get access to care and information in a language and a way that they can understand.

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About this author

Grace Bastidas, Deputy Editor

Born and raised in Queens, New York, where more languages are spoken than anywhere in the world, Grace Bastidas is Latina’s Deputy Editor. She oversees lifestyle content, including topics as diverse as career, health and relationships, and occasionally writes about her own experiences in The Good Life section. As a writer, Grace’s work has appeared in The New York TimesNew York magazine, The Wall Street Journal and Travel + Leisure. She is fluent in Spanish.

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