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Latina Travels to Capitol Hill to Demand Abortion Access for Low-Income Families

Friday, October 23, 2015
loretta Kane, Camino Public Relations Phone: 917.410.7242 Email:

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Organizers came together for All* Above All’s, a public education campaign, Capitol Hill Day. Among them were Ana Rodriguez DeFrates, the Texas Latina Advocacy Network (TX LAN) State Policy and Advocacy Director at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

The Argentine Texan met with lawmakers in the House and Senate and their staff to discuss the need to eliminate abortion bans, like the Hyde Amendment, and show her support for the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act, which, if passed, would ensure that those who receive care or insurance through the federal government are covered for all pregnancy-related care, including the right to end one.

Rodriguez DeFrates talked with Latina about All* Above All’s third annual Capitol Hill Day, why repealing the Hyde Amendment is crucial for low-income immigrants and women of color, and how Latinas can support the EACH Woman Act.

What is All* Above All?

It is a campaign, started in 2012, made up of more than 90 organizations representing 25 states united to lift bans that deny abortion coverage. We are uniting around a theme that the reproductive rights movement of the past has neglected to take up and fight. For nearly 40 years, there has been a restriction on abortion for federally supported plans, and that’s the Hyde Amendment. That means that low-income women have been denied that care for that long, so my organization, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, is involved in a leadership capacity. Jessica González-Rojas, our executive director, is co-chair of this campaign because we know that passing the EACH Woman Act would be such a huge step for reproductive health equity for Latinas.

How does All* Above All work to ensure that safe abortion care is available to everyone, despite their income?

When it’s a legislative session, we are here on Capitol Hill talking with representatives, sharing our stories and showing them why low-income people need access to the abortion care that only a small few can afford. But when it’s not a legislative session, the campaign is working to change the dialogue. A lot of conversations are happening in person and online about stigma and a culture shift that needs to happen.

Tell me about this year’s All* Above All Capitol Hill Day.

It was very productive and very powerful. I’m from Texas, and, because of that, I was assigned to a Texas delegation, so I joined my allies. We got assigned to offices that were already friendly and supportive of our issues, so it was really an opportunity for us to thank them and let them know we are from Texas, we are your constituents, and we are speaking boldly, and we appreciate that you are, too. One person we met with was Congresswoman Barbra Lee, who co-sponsored the EACH Woman Act and was actually born in Texas. It was great to be in the presence of champions.

Why are you involved in this reproductive rights movement?

I’m personally involved because I’m Latina, and I see injustices in Texas that particularly impact the Latino community. I’m a mother, and I’m pregnant, and for me it’s a blessing and a privilege to discuss abortion for those who need and want it while being pregnant. It dispels the myth that people who support access to reproductive health don’t want to parent. My reason for being involved is because I think every woman, especially those who have been marginalized, should be able to make a decision and access the services that allow them to put that decision into action. I know too many Latinas who have decided what they wanted for themselves and for their bodies, just like I decided to parent, was for them to end a pregnancy, and in many instances they can’t because while it is a legal right and while that decision has been made, there are barriers to that care, and that’s not OK.

How does the Hyde Amendment hurt Latinas?

One indication for economic stability for an individual is whether that individual has access to health care, reproductive health care, including abortion. When women are turned away, when they find out their insurance doesn’t cover abortion, when they can’t raise the money that it takes to pay within the allowable time period, we know those women are more likely to enter into poverty. This inability to access services hurts women and their families. Most women who seek abortion care already have children, so it’s impacting their ability to be financially stable.

But it’s also important to remember that this specific fight is for a certain type of Latina. Even if the EACH Woman Act passes, not every Latina can qualify for Medicaid. Undocumented Latinas can't and, thus, they still wouldn't benefit from the EACH Woman Act. So at the same time that we are working to lift this ban, we are also working on the HEAL Immigrant Women and Families Act so that all undocumented people have access to Medicaid like other Latinas would. Our approach is guided by the vision that all Latinas should have access to the wide range of sexual reproductive health care, no matter her income, no matter her zip code and no matter her immigration status.

I know you’re from Texas, and state politicians very recently announced that they intend to cut off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood. How could this impact Latinas and Latino families?

An attack on Planned Parenthood anywhere is an attack on women everywhere. They are a needed and trusted provider in the system and care in Texas, and that’s why we stand up for Planned Parenthood. If this elimination from Medicaid is allowed to stand, it will disproportionately impact Latinas and other women of color. Planned Parenthood serves the uninsured and the underinsured women every day, and who are those? Latinas and other women of color.

Another issue that impacts a Latina’s reproductive health care, and one we rarely talk about, are the internal immigration checkpoints. If you are an undocumented woman, you can’t cross checkpoints to get the care you need in Houston or elsewhere. There are no providers who can take up the slack for what Planned Parenthood does.

Why is it important for Latinas to be a part of this movement?

So often we talk about Latinas and low-income women, and we don’t hear from them directly. But they are the experts, and they need to be heard. That’s why I do this. People need to hear from Latinas on this issue in particular because we are characterized as not caring about it or opposing it.

We need to emphasize the problem with the way Latinas are talked about and written about. It only tells the grim stories. It says: Clinics are shutting down in our community, we are more likely to experience unintended pregnancies and we are more likely to die of cervical cancer. But the other side is the "why," and the answer is the public polices that create those realities.

PLUS: Texas Latina Protests Budget Proposal That Could Cut Cancer Screening Funding

What can members of our audience who support the EACH Woman Act do to help ensure that this measure is passed?

Right now, there are over 100 co-sponsors for this act. We need to target members of the Senate and in the House, and ask them to support the EACH Woman Act. This is especially powerful if those calls are made from Latinas, because, again, we have and will continue to work to break the stereotypes that Latinas are disengaged or not supportive of reproductive health care, even making the phone call as a Latina or a Latino helps dispel that.