Every day, it seems there is a new article highlighting the growing number of restrictions on abortion and reproductive health care. We are only a few months into most states’ legislative sessions, yet in Alabama and Mississippi, we’re already seeing a revival of “personhood” and TRAP laws, which threaten to prevent medical professionals from providing care. In Texas, lawmakers continue to try to find more ways to block women from basic health services.
Like all women, Latinas need, and seek, reproductive health care, including abortion, contraception, sex education, and prenatal care. In spite of outdated stereotypes perpetuated in the media, our data shows that Latino/as are in favor of protecting women’s health, and have compassionate views on abortion. Eight in 10 Latinos say they would support a close friend or family member who had an abortion.
A Latina who decides to end a pregnancy should have our community’s support and respect. But even with the support of friends and family in place, structural barriers, including poverty, discrimination, immigration status, and language prevent many Latinas from accessing these health care services. It doesn’t help that 87 percent of U.S. counties have no identifiable abortion provider, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Providing abortion can present significant challenges to doctors, nurses and clinic staff. Many of these providers face hostile, life-threatening environments, threats to their families, invasions of privacy, and endless legal assaults, creating tremendous obstacles to treating their patients. In spite of that, they go to work each day and provide the care that women urgently need. That’s why at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), we are taking the time to thank and reflect on the invaluable service these providers give their patients.
Doctors like Nilda L. Moreno-Ruiz, MD, an ob-gyn on the NLIRH board of directors who has dedicated her life to providing the full range of pregnancy-related care for her patients. For Dr. Moreno-Ruiz, patient care must be holistic in order to be effective, and that means getting to know her patients and their families and the daily struggles they may face.
When Dr. Moreno-Ruiz talks about providing abortion services, she talks about sitting with her patients, many of whom she has known for years, she talks about comforting them, listening to them, and connecting with them. She cares deeply for her patients, and for women everywhere: that’s why she’s chosen to provide the full range of care a pregnant woman might need, including abortion.
Or providers like Dr. Pablo Rodriguez, a community advocate both here and abroad for Latina women living in some of the world’s most under-served and under-resourced communities. From his travels in the Andes, Dr. Rodriguez has seen the misery and suffering many Latinas endure to access birth control and safe abortions as reproductive health care becomes less and less available, a growing concern many providers share for communities in the U.S.
Dr. Moreno-Ruiz and Dr. Rodriguez, and others like them, provide bilingual, culturally competent, and compassionate care. They understand the need for a broader advocacy framework that addresses how these issues are connected and work daily to help women overcome the structural barriers Latinas face in accessing health services.
Today, we take the time to thank these heroes, and all abortion providers, for the role they place in ensuring that every woman is able to make her own decisions about her pregnancy, family and her future.
Through NLIRH’s Yo Te Apoyo (I Support You) campaign, we are sending messages of support for Latinas who are making critical decisions about whether and when to become a parent or have another child. On this day, we also say, “Yo te apoyo,” to abortion providers, as well as their staff, supporters and defenders. We support them as they have supported us.
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