Salud, Dignidad, y Justicia For All

Salud, Dignidad, y Justicia For All

Thursday, July 2, 2015

As we celebrate that marriage equality is the law of the land, we must continue our work of achieving full equality for all of our communities, including our fight for accessible healthcare.  Last year during PRIDE, the same Supreme Court had decided that Hobby Lobby and other similar employers could deny contraceptive coverage to their employees on the basis of their religious beliefs.  As a Latina who works on these issues, I knew that Hobby Lobby would only worsen the current “minefield” of access to health care for Latinas/os, particularly for LGBTQ Latinas and Latinos. 

Religious exemptions like the ones given to medical providers only make access to healthcare, including reproductive healthcare, for Latinas/os and our LGBTQ hermanos and hermanas extremely difficult if not impossible to obtain.  Imagine if you are a Latina/o in Florida trying to access contraceptive care.  Let’s say you don’t have employer sponsored insurance coverage so you need to go to a community health center or a Planned Parenthood, which may be hundreds of miles away because the health center you went to had to close due to politically motivated budget cuts or TRAP regulations.  That doesn’t stop you so you scrounge up the money to pay for gas, a babysitter or caregiver if you have children or relatives you are responsible for, and have successfully received time off work to see a provider.  You go to the provider but you have a difficult time engaging with them because they cannot competently communicate with you in your own language and they don’t have any interpreters.  You stick with it but then your provider tells you that they won’t prescribe you contraception because it’s against their religious beliefs and they won’t refer you to another provider.  You need contraceptive care because you want to plan your future and now you have to travel the long journey home, thinking desperately along the way of how to get the care you need and how much it’s going to cost.

And what I just described isn’t far from reality.  Even though Texas doesn’t have any religious exemptions in regards to contraceptive care, it has exemptions on the books for abortion services.  In places such as Florida, where there is a large Latina/o community, individual providers and pharmacists may use religious exemptions to deny contraceptive care.

Religious exemptions also compound the health inequities that LGBTQ Latinas/os face.  LGBTQ Latinas/os already experience high rates of poverty and discrimination in healthcare and employment settings that contribute to poor health outcomes.  For transgender and gender non-conforming LGBTQ Latinas/os, religious exemptions provide another avenue for medical providers to discriminate.  Thirty-six percent of Latina/o transgender persons postponed care when they were sick or injured because they feared discrimination.  Moreover, research suggests that LGB youth may be at higher risk for unintended pregnancy than their heterosexual peers.  This makes it more likely that LGB Latinas/os will experience the harmful impact of religious exemptions not only because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity but also because they are seeking contraceptive care.

Because our community has been denied quality, affordable, and accessible healthcare, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is proud to be part of the Coalition for Liberty and Justice.  As members of this fierce group of advocates, we know that no one should be able to undermine the law to deny the healthcare that all persons, including Latinas/os and our LGBTQ Latina/o community members, need to make the best personal decisions.  Salud, dignidad, y justicia should be a reality for all persons regardless of religious belief.