A new report from a Texas reproductive rights advocacy group calls on state lawmakers to increase access to contraceptives, cancer screenings, and abortion care; strengthen the social safety net; and narrow the reach of the Texas border patrol in order to increase the health, safety, and wellbeing of Texas Latinas.
The report, A Reproductive Justice Agenda for Latinas, released by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) and the Center for Reproductive Rights, provides concrete policy recommendations that follow up on their 2013 Nuestro Texas report, in which Texas women living in the Rio Grande Valley told stories of their struggles to access, and pay for, reproductive health care, and the impact those struggles have had on their communities and families.
The new report, and an upcoming lobby day at the state capitol building where Latina activists will share recommendations directly with lawmakers, marks a historic moment in Latina activism, said NLIRH’s Texas policy and advocacy director, Ana DeFrates.
“In many ways, it’s an introduction to lawmakers of who we are and what we care about,” DeFrates told Rewire. “I’m very proud about this report starting some conversations that even really well intentioned, very smart people haven’t thought about.”
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The groups’ recommendations are sweeping, drawing on a reproductive justice framework that touches on issues ranging from health-care policy to transportation challenges to immigration reform.
“We’re trying to talk about what needs to shift politically and culturally to make Texas better for Texas Latinas,” said DeFrates, who hopes that the report will address “misconceptions about what Latinas care about.”
Texas Latinas living in the Rio Grande Valley, who experienced a disproportionately negative impact from lawmakers’ drastic cuts to family planning funds in 2011 and who have so far lost two of three local abortion providers after the passage of the state’s 2013 omnibus anti-abortion law, have higher incidence rates of cervical cancer than white or Black women in the state.
They also face extremely limited access to public transportation, particularly in rural areas and colonias, which makes it especially difficult for them to travel to doctors’ appointments. And Texas Latinas without legal U.S. immigration status are unable to travel past interior border patrol checkpoints, further limiting their ability to access services outside of a 100-mile demarcation from the U.S.-Mexico border.
But DeFrates said “it’s precisely those challenges that are mobilizing Latinas to get active and get involved.”
Some of the report’s recommendations could garner bipartisan approval—for example, ensuring that community health workers, or promotoras, are better supported and utilized, or developing a Texas-specific solution to the state’s insurance coverage gap.
Some suggested changes, such as expanding abortion care access, ask legislators make a complete turnaround from their past legislative stances.
But it’s all part of a longer-term plan, DeFrates said, to build a better Texas for Latinas.
“We couldn’t avoid talking about the glaring need that exists,” DeFrates said. “While some of the recommendations are more forward thinking, they set the ground work for the Texas we’re organizing for and working towards.”