What's the real problem behind the scapegoating of immigrant women?

August 2nd, 2011

Categories: economic justice, Funds, health care reform, immigrants' rights, unfair laws

We are proud to co-sponsor the 2nd Annual Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice.

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health notes that:

The current discourse surrounding young motherhood is both stigmatizing and insensitive, and presents young motherhood as a problem in itself as opposed to the real problems that often surround it, such as poverty and lack of access to timely and high-quality health care services and educational opportunities. Latinas do not report having sex more than white women, but are at higher risk for pregnancy because they have significantly lower rates of contraceptive use. This disparity in contraceptive use is based not on simple preference, but is closely connected to social and economic inequity. What’s the real problem?

One of the real problems is a lack of access to health care. With a 39% uninsured rate, Latinas have the highest uninsured rate of any racial or ethnic group. In addition, "in the United States, undocumented immigrants live in a state of perpetual legal marginalization."

With an advocacy grant from the National Network of Abortion Funds, in 2008 the Women's Health and Education Fund of Southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island (now the Women's Health and Education Fund of Rhode Island) published Immigrant Women's Abortion Access: Stories of Latina and Caribbean Women in Rhode Island and Southern Massachusetts. The stories shared in these pages detail what the real problems are:

  • language barriers and racism in social service and health provisions
  • high rates of poverty
  • social, cultural and religious barriers
  • immigration status
  • cultural isolation and vulnerability
  • staggering debt incurred en route to the United States
  • lack of culturally competent health care

16 year old Fernanda was raped by the men her parents paid to help her cross the border; Bernadette paid for abortion pills that ended up being fake, endangering her health and costing twice what a first-trimester abortion should; Roberta, born in this country, was raped by a family friend at the age of 12 and did not know that she was pregnant until she was 17 weeks along--most of her family was undocumented, placing them in a vulnerable position.

You can read Fernanda's, Bernadette's, Roberta's and others' stories online, here.