Art by Favianna – http://www.favianna.com/
Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. I only was reminded of this during the day thanks to emails from various individuals and organizations. It’s not that I’m a malagredecida. I personally have benefited from safe, legal abortions. I was just really busy.
Ironically one of the tasks on my never ending to do list yesterday was calling the local Planned Parenthood to reschedule a regular gynecological check up. For the first time in six years I have access to medical professionals that can check all my parts out. As my dear friend Bi often says, the only way most working class/poor women of color (especially in NYC) can get health insurance or get themselves checked out is when they are pregnant or have HIV/AIDS. This is not an exaggeration. 6 years ago, the last time I had a medical professional check out any part of my body was when I was pregnant. Since then, I have had no luck accessing medical insurance. Thankfully my children were taken care of medically, but not their mama. Until I moved to LA. I don’t know if I should thank California or health care reform.
The whole point of this little story is based in the idea of choice. I read something in the Nation yesterday as I was doing laundry that pro-choice advocates are now using the language of “choice” less and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The struggles for reproductive justice often have been narrowed to the “choice” to have an abortion or the “choice” to take birth control. But for most women of color in the United States (and dare I say globally) it’s a little more complicated than that. Access to money and/or insurance to cover reproductive health services remains a huge barrier and I’m not just talking abortions. Birth control, prenatal care, and postnatal care for parents are expensive and not just in terms of the actual medical services. Transportation to and from, child care, and time off from work are often factors not taken into consideration when choice and access are discussed.
In honor of the 40th anniversary of the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) launched a campaign yesterday called “Yo Te Apoyo,” (“I support you”) to correct outdated assumptions about Latino/as and reproductive care. The bottom line is that our community has compassionate views on abortion ” said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of NLIRH. “Six out of 10 Latinos support a woman’s ability to make her own personal, private decisions about abortion. Our community is declaring, ‘Yo Te Apoyo’ — I support you with out judgment.”
Lingering stereotypes about Latino/a attitudes about abortion remain. The truth is that Latino/as have compassionate views on abortion and support access to reproductive care for Latinas. NLIRH’s ground-breaking poll found that nearly three in four registered Latino voters agree that a woman has the right to make her own personal, private decisions about abortion with out politicians interfering and that Latino/as agree we shouldn’t judge someone who doesn’t feel ready to be a parent.Still, far too often, Latino/as are characterized as “anti-abortion,” even though research has consistently shown that outdated labels like “pro-life” and “anti-abortion” don’t accurately reflect Latino/a sentiment.
To bring attention to the changing attitudes about reproductive health, NLIRH is collecting stories of support from Latino/as across the country. Several of those stories have been collected in NLIRH’s original video — a unique collection of Latino/as speaking openly about their support for women’s ability to make decisions.
“Our families are stronger and healthier when Latinas can plan the timing and spacing of their children,” González-Rojas said. “By standing together, we can fight back against outdated myths about Latino/a views and advance policies that eliminate the structural barriers that prevent Latinas from accessing abortion care.”
I think sharing this information is important to release us all from some of the stigma and guilt that often surrounds not just abortion in our communities but all decisions relating to our sexual health and well being. Clearly many have moved beyond the virgin/whore dualism but we have a long way to go. Included in that is looking beyond the buzzword of choice and getting down into some of the core reasons why Latin@s make (or don’t make) the decisions we do. We often lack the means to choose where and how we live because of structural poverty. Unless organizers and politicians are willing to talk about the choices that are made in terms of policies that pollute our communities disproportionately and limit economic access, and then change the way business is done, all the talk about support for “choices” we make about what happens to our bodies is just that that.