“Todas Somos Beatriz” read the slogan carried by hundreds of U.S. Latinas at multiple rallies organized last month in many cities of the United States. Protesters deplored Salvadoran legislators deciding the fate of a 22-year old woman at risk of dying, due to critical health problems and her pregnancy. Beatriz became the horrific future feared by women of all races and backgrounds in the United States if legislators, mostly Republican men, have their way.
After all, Beatriz’s cry is resonating with thousands of American women who face heart-wrenching choices everyday about their pregnancies. But Beatriz became an international symbol for the decades old and dramatic current debate about “who” has the decision about my health and my body as a woman.
It was an awakening call for women across the globe, and U.S. Latinas heard it.
Another loud call came to us last week. Texas Senator Wendy Davis sustained a historic filibuster against the proposed SB-5 bill that would deny fundamental health rights for women in Texas including access to clinics, access to contraceptives, and the overall choice about our reproductive rights. Extremist right-wing Republicans have been calling this struggle “pro-abortion” or “pro-life” which is an orchestrated public relations misleading campaign against women. The “pro-life” or “pro-abortion” label is an intended misnomer. The right of women to decide about abortion is only one of many sections in this bill—and the copycat bills circulating by many other states’ legislatures—intending to deny women the right to reproductive health.
At stake here is the fundamental right of women to decide about our body, about our reproductive choices, about our rights to contraceptives and to overall health care needs and services. “Some of my Senate colleagues do not believe in trusting women with their reproductive organs” stated Latina Texas Senator Leticia Van de Putte referring to Republican men in the legislature who are determined to pass this bill.
U.S. Latinas, have an enormous stake in this and other legislative battles for our reproductive rights. The disparities on health access, including the use of contraceptives, have dramatic consequences to our community. Low-income Latinas have the highest percentages of unintended pregnancies and of abortion, after low-income African American women. We are talking of women who are uninsured, who have no access to health clinics, who are denied contraceptives, and therefore their unintended pregnancies force them to abortion, as their only option. The choice for abortion would not be at the current levels had these women been able to count on access to contraceptives. Senator Davis was one of these women. She was uninsured and low income, and her access to these free health clinics helped her choose and decide what it was best for her pregnancy as a single mother and based on her own circumstances. Extremist Republican men in legislative positions across the country cannot have the power to decide over women’s bodies and choices.
This struggle is not about abortion. It is about our health. It is about our power, about our right as women to decide.
By Sylvia Rosales-Fike. Sylvia has been an activist and organizational leader for the advancement of immigrants’ rights in the United States for twenty-eight years. She designed and co-chaired the “No Human Being Is Illegal” national campaign in the mid-1980s.