Analysis Law and Policy

The Decision in Fisher v. Texas: What’s at Stake for Women of Color

Imani Gandy

Today, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Fisher v. Texas, the first case on affirmative action to be heard by the court in almost a decade. If the Supreme Court strikes down the UT Plan, both students of color and white students will lose out.

This morning, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Fisher v. Texas, the first case on affirmative action to be heard by the court in almost a decade. At issue is University of Texas’s (UT) admissions policy which uses race as one of several factors (including academic achievement, gender, community service, geography, socioeconomic status, legacy, upbringing, athletic ability, academic and extra-curricular interests, among others) in determining admissions.

The Supreme Court has long-held that achieving racial diversity is a permissible basis for schools to consider race as a factor in admissions. The principle was set forth by Justice Lewis Powell in the 1978 case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke , and was reaffirmed by Justice O’Connor in the 2003 case Grutter v. Bollinger, a case that examined the admissions policy at University of Michigan Law School.

The specific approach undertaken by UT in deciding admissions was developed in the wake of Hopwood v. Texas, a case which rendered unconstitutional the use of race as a determining factor in school admissions in the UT system, and which saw an alarming decline in minority students at UT schools as a result.

After the Fifth Circuit’s 1996 ruling in Hopwood v. Texas, Texas passed the so-called “Top Ten Percent Law” which, essentially, guarantees admission to every Texas resident who graduates in the top ten percent of his or her high school class. Due to the demographic composition of Texas, the implementation of the Top Ten Percent Law has resulted in robust diversity at Texas schools, generally (but not, as will be discussed below, in particular academic fields.)

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After the Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger affirmed that the University of Michigan Law School could consider race as a factor in order to promote racial diversity, University of Texas seized upon this opportunity to further promote racial equality in the UT system, and began (again) to use race as one of the determining factors in its admissions policy.

UT’s admissions policy is as follows:

Applicants are separated into three groups: (1) Texas residents, (2) domestic non-Texas residents, and (3) international students. Texas residents are then divided into two subgroups: Texas residents who graduated in the top ten percent of their class, and those who did not. With one limited exception, all Texas residents graduated in the top ten percent of their class are admitted to the school. (Except that for certain schools (Business, Engineering, Kinesiology, Communication, and Nursing) only 75 percent of the slots may be filled with Texas residents so that these schools can admit some non-top-ten percent applicants.)

Those who did not graduate in the top ten percent of their class are evaluated based upon a personal achievement index and an academic achievement index. The personal achievement index is comprised of three scores: one score for each of the written essays, and one score for personal achievement. The personal achievement score, in turn, is based upon an evaluation of the applicant’s entire file. Race and gender are two of the many factors that are evaluated in determining an applicant’s personal achievement score.

The UT plan closely tracks the University of Michigan plan. Indeed, the UT plan arguably is better than Michigan’s. University of Michigan keeps track of the numbers of students being admitted from various races as it is admitting them. University of Texas does not and supporters of its policy consider it a more holistic approach less prone to become an impermissible racial quota system.

Since adopting its current admissions policy, University of Texas has seen a vast improvement in minority admissions, including women of color. As the court in Fisher noted, the result has been a balanced and diverse student body at a school that one magazine dedicated to diversity in higher education ranked “sixth in the nation in producing undergraduate degrees for minority groups.”

Any abrogation of UT’s plan will result in another dramatic decline in minority enrollment and applicants, similar to what happened in the wake of Hopwood. It will also result in the persistence of racial and gender stereotypes that hinder the progress of women of color both in higher education and in the workforce.

As the National Women’s Law Center noted in its amicus (“friend of the court”) brief, the history of racial discrimination and sex discrimination are closely intertwined, and efforts to ameliorate either race or sex discrimination tend to benefit women of color last.

Historically, racial and gender discrimination has led to the creation of schools segregated both by race and gender. Men were trained to be lawyers and doctors, while white women were trained in areas that focused on domestic affairs like child-rearing and care-giving—areas that allowed them to remain “ladies.” White women were sent to school to learn to become teachers, secretaries, and nurses. Women of color (or “negros,” as they were called then), not held in high enough regard to be considered ladies, were trained to be hard workers in manual labor professions more suitable for their station: farming and domestic work.

Evidence suggests that such stereotypes persist today, in the way in which women of color are perceived in the classroom and workforce as unsuitable for certain types of work, especially that which involves acting in leadership roles, or jobs that involve math, science and engineering.

According to the National Women’s Law Center:

While white women thus attend college in large numbers, they are disproportionately concentrated infields that correspond to the social roles once formally assigned to them. For example, women receive77% of the bachelor’s degrees in psychology, 79.5% in education, 82% in public administration and social-services fields, and 85% in health professions and related programs. Ibid. By contrast, they receive only18.2% of the bachelor’s degrees in engineering, 18.1%in computer science, and 10.1% in other engineering-related fields. Ibid.

The effect is more pronounced for minority women, in part because they make up such a small proportion of college students overall. Black women earned only 6.5% of bachelor’s degrees in 2010, and Hispanic women only 5.1%. Black women accounted for just 3.7% of computer-science majors and 0.4% of engineering majors. Ibid. And Hispanic women were only 1.5% of the computer-science majors and 1.4% of the engineering majors.”

The statistics for master’s and doctoral degrees are equally alarming:

In 2010, black women earned just 3% of the master’s degrees in computer science; Hispanic women, 0.8%. And each group received only 0.9% of the master’s degrees in engineering.

The effect is even more extreme for doctoral degrees: In 2010, just 55 black women and 70 Hispanic women earned doctoral degrees in engineering, and 17 black women and 8 Hispanic women earned doctoral degrees in computer science, nationwide.

The story in professional schools is similar: Black women received only 4.6% of the medical degrees; Hispanic women, 2.5%. Black women received 4.4%of the law degrees; Hispanic women, 3.6%. Black women receive 3.2% of the dentistry degrees; Hispanic women 3.1%.

These statistics about the makeup of education programs are reflected in the racial and gender makeup of the workforce itself:

Men still make up a majority of doctors, architects, engineers, and politicians—professions that were long formally closed to women of color, who were unable to get the education or training needed to pursue a career in those fields. Even today, less than 5.3% of the physicians and surgeons in this country are black women; less than 6.6% are Hispanic women. Among lawyers, less than 5.3% are black women; less than3.2% are Hispanic women. And among architects, less than 1.6% are black women and less than 3.2%are Hispanic women.

Texas’s admissions policy uniquely addresses these concerns in a manner already deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court in Grutter. Indeed, UT’s plan is expressly meant to comport with Grutter.  Still, Ms. Fisher, the plaintiff in this case, cried foul.

Fisher, a young white woman who was denied admission to University of Texas-Austin and who went on to graduate from the University of Louisiana, does not seek to overrule Grutter entirely, but simply to strike down UT’s plan. (Only if the UT plan is deemed constitutional under Grutter, does Fisher ask the Supreme Court to examine whether Grutter has any remaining constitutionality.)

Fisher argues that because the Top Ten Percent Law provides a critical mass of minorities, that consideration of race is unnecessary and an unconstitutional attempt to achieve racial balancing.

Her claim boils down to, “Enough is enough.” And, indeed, she may be correct as far as achieving racial balance in the school, department, major, AND classroom. (As Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog points out.)

But the court in Fisher notes that Grutter permits that. Grutter is a case about the importance of racial diversity and Texas’s plan is about racial diversity and is based on the principles set forth in Grutter.

Moreover, as the court in Fisher points out, while the Top Ten Percent Law increase the number of minorities at UT, generally, it does not advance the underlying goals of the UT’s Grutter plan, which is to prepare its students to become leaders in the community:

UT’s stated goal is to “produce graduates who are capable of fulfilling the future leadership needs of Texas.”This objective calls for a more tailored diversity emphasis. In a state as racially diverse as Texas, ensuring that graduates learn to collaborate with members of racial groups they will encounter in the workforce is especially important. The 2004 Proposal concluded that a race-conscious admissions program was necessary at UT specifically because “from a racial, ethnic, and cultural standpoint, students at the University [were] being educated in a less-than-realistic environment that [was] not conducive to training the leaders of tomorrow.”

The Top Ten Percent Law alone does not achieve this goal because under that rule, the top ten percent are guaranteed admission to the University of Texas schools generally, but not necessarily to the program, major, or department the student desires because every offer of admission made by UT is tied to a particular department. Disallowing Texas to consider race in determining the makeup of the departments and particular schools leads to the sorts of racial clusters in certain departments and schools that detrimentally effect students of color, including women of color:

The reality is that the Top Ten Percent Law alone does not perform well in pursuit of the diversity Grutter endorsed and is in many ways at war with it. While the Law may have contributed to an increase in overall minority enrollment, those minority students remain clustered in certain programs, limiting the beneficial effects of educational diversity. For example, nearly a quarter of the undergraduate students in UT’s College of Social Work are Hispanic, and more than 10% are African-American.

In the College of Education, 22.4% of students are Hispanic and 10.1% are African-American. By contrast, in the College of Business Administration, only 14.5% of the students are Hispanic and 3.4% are African-American. It is evident that if UT is to have diverse interactions, it needs more minority students who are interested in and meet the requirements for a greater variety of colleges, not more students disproportionately enrolled in certain programs. The holistic review endorsed by Grutter gives UT that discretion, but the Top Ten Percent Law, which accounts for nearly 90% of all Texas resident admissions, does not.

UT’s uniquely holistic approach benefits not just students of color, but white students as well. If the court strikes down the plan, UT will no longer be able to consider the race of a white male high school student seeking entrance to, for example, the Nursing School in addition to no longer being able to consider the race of a black female high school student seeking admission to the school of Engineering.

If the Supreme Court strikes down the UT Plan, UT may continue to be a racially-diverse school, generally, but the benefits of racial diversity will not have its intended effect on minorities, including women of color, aspiring to join certain fields like law, architecture, medicine, engineering, and politics. And certainly, the goal of preparing all UT students, irrespective of color, to participate more fully in a culturally-rich and diverse world will be undermined.

Additionally, should the Supreme Court strike down the UT plan, the stereotypes regarding the capability of women, and especially women of color, to succeed in specific areas of study, and the resulting problems of homogeneity in the workforce in Texas, particularly in fields like law, business, politics, and science, will persist.

Culture & Conversation Media

Filmmaker Tracy Droz Tragos Centers Abortion Stories in New Documentary

Renee Bracey Sherman

The film arrives at a time when personal stories are center stage in the national conversation about abortion, including in the most recent Supreme Court decision, and rightly so. The people who actually have and provide abortions should be driving the narrative, not misinformation and political rhetoric.

This piece is published in collaboration with Echoing Ida, a Forward Together project.

A new film by producer and director Tracy Droz Tragos, Abortion: Stories Women Tell, profiles several Missouri residents who are forced to drive across the Mississippi River into Illinois for abortion care.

The 93-minute film features interviews with over 20 women who have had or are having abortions, most of whom are Missouri residents traveling to the Hope Clinic in Granite City, Illinois, which is located about 15 minutes from downtown St. Louis.

Like Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming, Missouri has only one abortion clinic in the entire state.

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The women share their experiences, painting a more nuanced picture that shows why one in three women of reproductive age often seek abortion care in the United States.

The film arrives at a time when personal stories are center stage in the national conversation about abortion, including in the most recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, and rightly so. The people who actually have and provide abortions should be driving the narrative, not misinformation and political rhetoric. But while I commend recent efforts by filmmakers like Droz Tragos and others to center abortion stories in their projects, these creators still have far to go when it comes to presenting a truly diverse cadre of storytellers if they really want to shift the conversation around abortion and break down reproductive stigma.

In the wake of Texas’ omnibus anti-abortion law, which was at the heart of the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt Supreme Court case, Droz Tragos, a Missouri native, said in a press statement she felt compelled to document how her home state has been eroding access to reproductive health care. In total, Droz Tragos interviewed 81 people with a spectrum of experiences to show viewers a fuller picture of the barriersincluding legislation and stigmathat affect people seeking abortion care.

Similar to HBO documentaries about abortion that have come before it—including 12th & Delaware and Abortion: Desperate ChoicesAbortion: Stories Women Tell involves short interviews with women who are having and have had abortions, conversations with the staff of the Hope Clinic about why they do the work they do, interviews with local anti-choice organizers, and footage of anti-choice protesters shouting at patients, along with beautiful shots of the Midwest landscape and the Mississippi River as patients make road trips to appointments. There are scenes of clinic escorts holding their ground as anti-choice protesters yell Bible passages and obscenities at them. One older clinic escort carries a copy of Living in the Crosshairs as a protester follows her to her car, shouting. The escort later shares her abortion story.

One of the main storytellers, Amie, is a white 30-year-old divorced mother of two living in Boonville, Missouri. She travels over 100 miles each way to the Hope Clinic, and the film chronicles her experience in getting an abortion and follow-up care. Almost two-thirds of people seeking abortions, like Amie, are already a parent. Amie says that the economic challenges of raising her other children make continuing the pregnancy nearly impossible. She describes being physically unable to carry a baby and work her 70 to 90 hours a week. Like many of the storytellers in the film, Amie talks about the internalized stigma she’s feeling, the lack of support she has from loved ones, and the fear of family members finding out. She’s resilient and determined; a powerful voice.

The film also follows Kathy, an anti-choice activist from Bloomfield, Missouri, who says she was “almost aborted,” and that she found her calling in the anti-choice movement when she noticed “Anne” in the middle of the name “Planned Parenthood.” Anne is Kathy’s middle name.

“OK Lord, are you telling me that I need to get in the middle of this?” she recalls thinking.

The filmmakers interview the staff of the Hope Clinic, including Dr. Erin King, a pregnant abortion provider who moved from Chicago to Granite City to provide care and who deals with the all-too-common protesting of her home and workplace. They speak to Barb, a talkative nurse who had an abortion 40 years earlier because her nursing school wouldn’t have let her finish her degree while she was pregnant. And Chi Chi, a security guard at the Hope Clinic who is shown talking back to the protesters judging patients as they walk into the clinic, also shares her abortion story later in the film. These stories remind us that people who have abortions are on the frontlines of this work, fighting to defend access to care.

To address the full spectrum of pregnancy experiences, the film also features the stories of a few who, for various reasons, placed their children for adoption or continued to parent. While the filmmakers interview Alexis, a pregnant Black high school student whose mother died when she was 8 years old, classmates can be heard in the distance tormenting her, asking if she’s on the MTV reality show 16 and Pregnant. She’s visibly distraught and crying, illustrating the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” conundrum women of color experiencing unintended pregnancy often face.

Te’Aundra, another young Black woman, shares her story of becoming pregnant just as she received a college basketball scholarship. She was forced to turn down the scholarship and sought an adoption, but the adoption agency refused to help her since the child’s father wouldn’t agree to it. She says she would have had an abortion if she could start over again.

While anti-choice rhetoric has conflated adoption as the automatic abortion alternative, research has shown that most seeking adoption are personally debating between adoption and parenting. This is illustrated in Janet’s story, a woman with a drug addiction who was raising one child with her partner, but wasn’t able to raise a second, so she sought an adoption. These stories are examples of the many societal systems failing those who choose adoption or students raising families, in addition to those fighting barriers to abortion access.

At times, the film feels repetitive and disjointed, but the stories are powerful. The range of experiences and reasons for having an abortion (or seeking adoption) bring to life the data points too often ignored by politicians and the media: everything from economic instability and fetal health, to domestic violence and desire to finish an education. The majority of abortion stories featured were shared by those who already had children. Their stories had a recurring theme of loneliness and lack of support from their loved ones and friends at a time when they needed it. Research has shown that 66 percent of people who have abortions tend to only tell 1.24 people about their experience, leaving them keeping a secret for fear of judgment and shame.

While many cite financial issues when paying for abortions or as the reason for not continuing the pregnancy, the film doesn’t go in depth about how the patients come to pay for their abortions—which is something my employer, the National Network for Abortion Funds (NNAF), directly addresses—or the systemic issues that created their financial situations.

However, it brings to light the hypocrisy of our nation, where the invisible hand of our society’s lack of respect for pregnant people and working parents can force people to make pregnancy decisions based on economic situations rather than a desire to be pregnant or parent.

“I’m not just doing this for me” is a common phrase when citing having an abortion for existing or future children.

Overall, the film is moving simply because abortion stories are moving, especially for audiences who don’t have the opportunity to have someone share their abortion story with them personally. I have been sharing my abortion story for five years and hearing someone share their story with me always feels like a gift. I heard parts of my own story in those shared; however, I felt underrepresented in this film that took place partly in my home state of Illinois. While people of color are present in the film in different capacities, a racial analysis around the issues covered in the film is non-existent.

Race is a huge factor when it comes to access to contraception and reproductive health care; over 60 percent of people who have abortions are people of color. Yet, it took 40 minutes for a person of color to share an abortion story. It seemed that five people of color’s abortion stories were shown out of the over 20 stories, but without actual demographic data, I cannot confirm how all the film’s storytellers identify racially. (HBO was not able to provide the demographic data of the storytellers featured in the film by press time.)

It’s true that racism mixed with sexism and abortion stigma make it more difficult for people of color to speak openly about their abortion stories, but continued lack of visual representation perpetuates that cycle. At a time when abortion storytellers themselves, like those of NNAF’s We Testify program, are trying to make more visible a multitude of identities based on race, sexuality, immigration status, ability, and economic status, it’s difficult to give a ringing endorsement of a film that minimizes our stories and relegates us to the second half of a film, or in the cases of some of these identities, nowhere at all. When will we become the central characters that reality and data show that we are?

In July, at the progressive conference Netroots Nation, the film was screened followed by an all-white panel discussion. I remember feeling frustrated at the time, both because of the lack of people of color on the panel and because I had planned on seeing the film before learning about a march led by activists from Hands Up United and the Organization for Black Struggle. There was a moment in which I felt like I had to choose between my Blackness and my abortion experience. I chose my Black womanhood and marched with local activists, who under the Black Lives Matter banner have centered intersectionality. My hope is that soon I won’t have to make these decisions in the fight for abortion rights; a fight where people of color are the backbone whether we’re featured prominently in films or not.

The film highlights the violent rhetoric anti-choice protesters use to demean those seeking abortions, but doesn’t dissect the deeply racist and abhorrent comments, often hurled at patients of color by older white protesters. These racist and sexist comments are what fuel much of the stigma that allows discriminatory laws, such as those banning so-called race- and sex-selective abortions, to flourish.

As I finished the documentary, I remembered a quote Chelsea, a white Christian woman who chose an abortion when her baby’s skull stopped developing above the eyes, said: “Knowing you’re not alone is the most important thing.”

In her case, her pastor supported her and her husband’s decision and prayed over them at the church. She seemed at peace with her decision to seek abortion because she had the support system she desired. Perhaps upon seeing the film, some will realize that all pregnancy decisions can be quite isolating and lonely, and we should show each other a bit more compassion when making them.

My hope is that the film reaches others who’ve had abortions and reminds them that they aren’t alone, whether they see themselves truly represented or not. That we who choose abortion are normal, loved, and supported. And that’s the main point of the film, isn’t it?

Abortion: Stories Women Tell is available in theaters in select cities and will be available on HBO in 2017.

Culture & Conversation Politics

Latino Votes Count or ‘Why Would They Be Trying to Suppress Them?’: Dolores Huerta on What’s at Stake in 2016

Ally Boguhn

“We know that we’ve had this problem that Latinos sometimes don’t vote—they feel intimidated, they feel like maybe their vote doesn’t matter,” Huerta told Rewire. Huerta encouraged people to consider both what is at stake and why their vote might be suppressed in the first place.

Republican nominee Donald Trump launched his campaign for president in June 2015 with a speech notoriously claiming Mexican immigrants to the United States “are bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and their rapists.”

Since then, both Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party at large have continued to rely upon anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric to drum up support. Take for example, this year’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio—whose department came under fire earlier this year for racially profiling Latinos—was invited to take the stage to push Trump’s proposed 2,000-mile border wall. Arpaio told the Arizona Republic that Trump’s campaign had worked with the sheriff to finalize his speech.

This June, just a day shy of the anniversary of Trump’s entrance into the presidential race, People for the American Way and CASA in Action hosted an event highlighting what they deemed to be the presumptive Republican nominee’s “Year of Hate.”

Among the advocates speaking at the event was legendary civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, who worked alongside César Chávez in the farm workers’ movement. Speaking by phone the next day with Rewire, Huerta—who has endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton—detailed the importance of Latinos getting involved in the 2016 election, and what she sees as being at stake for the community.

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The Trump campaign is “promoting a culture of violence,” Huerta told Rewire, adding that it “is not just limited to the rallies,” which have sometimes ended in violent incidents, “but when he is attacking Mexicans, and gays, and women, and making fun of disabled people.”

Huerta didn’t just see this kind of rhetoric as harmful to Latinos. When asked about its effect on the country at large, she suggested it affected not only those who already held racist beliefs, but also people living in the communities of color those people may then target. “For those people who are already racist, it sort of reinforces their racism,” she said. “I think people have their own frustrations in their lives and they take it out on immigrants, they take it out on women. And I think that it really endangers so many people of color.”

The inflammatory rhetoric toward people of color by presidential candidates has led to “an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom,” according to an April report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The organization’s analysis of the impact of the 2016 presidential election on classrooms across the country found “an increase in bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been the verbal targets of candidates on the campaign trail.” Though the SPLC did not name Trump in its questions, its survey of about 2,000 K-12 educators elicited up more than 1,000 comments about the Republican nominee, compared to less than 200 comments mentioning other presidential candidates still in the race at that time.

But the 2016 election presents an opportunity for those affected by that violent rhetoric to make their voices heard, said Huerta. “The Latino vote is going to be the decisive vote in terms of who is going to be elected the president of the United States,” she continued, later noting that “we’ve actually seen a resurgence right now of Latinos registering to vote and Latinos becoming citizens.”

However, a desire to vote may not always be enough. Latinos, along with other marginalized groups, face many barriers when it comes to voting due to the onslaught of voter restrictions pushed by conservative lawmakers across the country—a problem only exacerbated by the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling gutting portions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) meant to safeguard against voter suppression efforts. The 2016 election season will be the first presidential election without those protections.

As many as 875,000 eligible Latino voters could face difficulty voting thanks to new restrictions—such as voter ID laws, proof of citizenship requirements, and shortened early voting periods—put into place since the 2012 elections, a May analysis from the National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials found.

When it comes to restrictions like this, Huerta “absolutely” saw how they could create barriers for those hoping to cast their ballot this year. “They’ve made all of these restrictions that keep especially the Latino population from voting. So it’s very scary,” said Huerta, pointing to laws in states like Texas, which previously had one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country. (The state has since agreed to weaken its law following a judge’s order).

“We know that we’ve had this problem that Latinos sometimes don’t vote—they feel intimidated, they feel like maybe their vote doesn’t matter,” Huerta went on.

Huerta encouraged people to consider both what is at stake and why their voting rights might be targeted in the first place. “What we have to think about is, if they’re doing so much to suppress the vote of the Latino and the African-American community, that means that that vote really counts. It really matters or else why would they be trying to suppress them?”

Appealing to those voters means tapping into the issues Latinos care about. “I think the issues [Latinos care about] are very, very clear,” said Huerta when asked how a presidential candidate could best appeal to the demographic. “I mean, immigration of course is one of the issues that we have, but then education is another one, and health care.”

A February survey conducted jointly by the Washington Post and Univision found that the top five issues Latino voters cared about in the 2016 election cycle were jobs and the economy (33 percent), immigration (17 percent), education (16 percent), health care (11 percent), and terrorism (9 percent).

Another election-year issue that could affect voters is the nomination of a U.S. Supreme Court justice, Huerta added. She pointed out the effect justices have on our society by using the now-decided Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case as an example. “You know, again, when we think of the presidents, and we think of the Supreme Court and we know that [was] one of the issues that [was] pending in the Supreme Court … whether what they did in Texas … was constitutional or not with all of the restrictions they put on the health clinics,” she said.

Latinas disproportionately face large barriers to reproductive health care. According to Planned Parenthood, they “experience higher rates of reproductive cancers, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections than most other groups of people.” Those barriers are only exacerbated by laws like Texas’ HB 2, as the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health explained in its amicus brief in the Whole Woman’s Health case prior to the decision: “Texas Latinas already face significant geographic, transportation, infrastructure, and cost challenges in accessing health services.”

“H.B. 2’s impact is acute because of the day-to-day struggles many Latinas encounter when seeking to exercise their reproductive rights,” wrote the organization in its brief. “In Texas, there is a dire shortage of healthcare facilities and providers in predominantly Latino communities. Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured adults in the country, and Texas Latinos are more than twice as likely as whites to be uninsured …. Additionally, the lack of public and private transportation creates a major barrier to accessing health services, especially in rural areas.”

As Rewire’s Tina Vasquez has reported, for undocumented women, the struggle to access care can be even greater.

Given the threats cases like Whole Woman’s Health have posed to reproductive rights, Huerta noted that “Trump’s constant attacks and misogynist statements” should be taken with caution. Trump has repeatedly vowed to appoint anti-choice justices to the Supreme Court if elected.

“The things he says without even thinking about it … it shows what a dangerous individual he can be when it comes to women’s rights and women’s reproductive rights,” said Huerta.

Though the race for the White House was a top concern of Huerta’s, she concluded by noting that it is hardly the only election that matters this year. “I think the other thing is we have to really talk about is, the presidency is really important, but so is the Senate and the Congress,” said Huerta.

“We’ve got to make sure we get good people elected at every level, starting at school board level, city council, supervisors, commissioners, etc. state legislatures …. We’ve got to make sure reasonable people will be elected, and reasonable people are voted into office.”


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