People make a lot of assumptions about the way the Latinx community feels about abortion. It can be a complex and complicated topic, but the bottom line is that Latinas believe that if someone needs to seek an abortion that we should treat them with compassion and that they should be supported. This is true across religions.
Questions of pregnancy and parenting are truly personal. We should each be able to decide whether to choose adoption, seek abortion or become a parent. We may consider what our faith tradition taught us, our individual health and financial circumstances, our relationships, and whether we want to be or are ready to parents. These are important considerations. They are the kind of decisions that are made with the support of trusted people in our lives. We talk to health professionals.
We may reach out a friend or sit down with our minister and think about the option that respects our unique circumstances and what we believe is best for us. You know who is not and should not be inserted into this decision – lawmakers. But that is what happens over and over again. Politicians who don’t want abortion to be available and want to take away the right to make our own decision by pushing bills and policies to undermine and even take away access. They often do so in very insidious ways that put their beliefs and their agenda ahead of what we may need.
The idea of “personhood” has been at the ballot box three separate times and every time voters in our state have rejected the idea.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) just issued their five-year strategic plan. It includes a definition of life as “beginning with conception”. We have seen this before in Colorado. The idea of “personhood” has been at the ballot box three separate times and every time voters in our state have rejected the idea.
Activists who opposed personhood in Colorado opposed the attack on reproductive health care, which would deny access to emergency contraception, abortion and some fertility treatments. They also feared that the expanded definition could be used to criminalize pregnant women’s behavior or punish people based on pregnancy outcomes. This is a development we have seen more and more often in recent years – for example, when laws are written so that a woman who has a miscarriage is at risk of arrest or interrogation.
An alarming number of women are being arrested, prosecuted and jailed just for losing their pregnancies. The National Advocates for Pregnant Women has identified more than 375 arrests since 2005. Personhood legislation is part of an agenda of denying personal decisions and criminalizing women and providers, attacks that fall hardest on low-income women and women of color.
One of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights COLOR’s community organizers, Gina was told by her doctors that her pregnancy was high-risk. After that, she worked hard to take all necessary precautions, but she found herself bleeding late one evening. When she went to the emergency room, the doctor told Gina and her husband that the placenta had detached and that she had lost the pregnancy. She later said that in spite of the physical hurt, the greatest pain was “apologizing to my daughter, who was six years old at the time, and telling her that she was not going to have a brother or a sister.”
Many women are extremely sad when they experience pregnancy loss, especially when these experiences are made harder by barriers to care or by laws that stigmatize miscarriage. Gina fought hard against personhood knowing that she had walked in the shoes of women who could face a miscarriage and then have to endure interrogation or investigation.
Threatening women who have faced a pregnancy complication or loss does not serve the public interest. Pushing fertility treatments, contraception and abortion out of reach does not help us to meet the needs of women and families in our state. Simply put – this policy would not only undermine the ongoing efforts to ensure and expand access to care, but would actually cause real harm. HHS is accepting public comments. We hope that Coloradans will make our voices heard on this issue as we have before.
Karla G. Gonzales García Policy and Program Director for the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR). Colorlatina.org
- Advocates Urge Support for Contraceptive Access and Young Parents - December 7, 2017
- Latinx Community Supports Personal Decisions, NOT Personhood - October 25, 2017