The Reproductive Health Debate: Why We Should Be Mad as Hell!

The reproductive health debate is leaving out important considerations. I am a woman. I am a Black Latina. I also happen to be a single unmarried mom to a beautiful daughter, who is half African American. But apparently, I am a scourge on society—at least as far as old, white legislators are concerned. Women like me should not only never be able to regulate what goes in or comes out of our uteri, but we harlot-types should be forced to have as many babies as our slutty vaginas can handle, for morality’s sake. (But for God’s sake, don’t ask for state or federal aid. Get a job, you welfare-sucking mom! And don’t forget to home school!)

Raising a child, MY child, is a monumental responsibility, one that I take with feral convictions. What makes me so rabid right now is that my daughter might grow up in a world not having the same choice as her mother did in bringing a child into this world. These battles of equal protection under the law were already fought in my lifetime. So now what, we’re back at Square One?

Read Related: The Great Disconnect, Latinas and Catholicism

WHAT’S GOING ON IN AMERICA? IN 2012?!?
I recently relocated from NYC to Northern Virginia. When going from a Blue to a Red state, I knew there would be cultural differences. As a woman of color, I thought I’d be subjected to racism before sexism. But apparently not. These Draconian contra-contraception anti-abortion laws being passed in my newly adopted state, which Governor Bob McDonnell signed March 7, are an affront to all women. Submitting a woman to a transvaginal ultrasound prior to receiving an abortion (at her expense) has absolutely no health value other than shaming the woman thrice before making what is already an arduous decision. And to proffer the AVERT THINE EYES as a mitigating excuse to being vaginally probed with an 8-10” wand (wearing a condom!) penetrates your cervix. On the afternoon of Saturday, March 3, peaceful protesters marched on the state Capitol building in Richmond, VA. Within three minutes, a decision by police was made to use excessive force. SWAT teams with AK-47s and riot shields pushed against the mostly female crowd, and arrested the individuals who sat on the steps of the Capitol building, which, ironically was built by founding father Thomas Jefferson in 1785. Watch for yourself: This is liberty?

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POLITICAL RHETORIC VS. ACTUAL FACTS
Somehow in this political carnival, women having access to contraceptives seems to be conflated with young co-eds having wild, wanton orgiastic sex. Never mind that hormonal birth control pills are also used for other medical purposes, like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), or that married women might want/need to control the size of their families in an already overpopulated, underemployed world. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the leading research thinktank on reproductive issues in the US and the world,  99% of sexually experienced women of child-bearing age, both married and unmarried, regardless of religious affiliation, have used some form of birth control. And yes, let’s ignore Guttmacher’s other seminal study, the teen pregnancy rate is the lowest in 50 years, coincidentally (or not) the same timeframe as The Pill’s introduction). And yet, presidential hopeful Rick Santorum wants to take us back to the 1950s, using stone-age logic that birth control somehow leads to more teen pregnancy, while Rush and the Right Brothers will have you believe that your hard-earned tax dollars are going to subsidize Caligula.

But let’s untwist everybody’s panties first: Contraceptive coverage, like mammograms and cervical cancer screenings, is considered a preventative women’s health measure that all private insurance must provide, as mandated by the Women’s Preventive Services Guidelines that has already rolled into effect last August under Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Last week, the Blunt Amendment, the Republican House bill that aimed to overturn this mandate (which also extended to any employer refusing any treatment they deem as immoral, including prenatal screenings, HIV/AIDS testing and more) was narrowly shot down in the Senate. Then, a Georgetown law student, Sandra Fluke, dared to challenge the moral responsibility of the Catholic university’s denial of birth control coverage based on religious law (her testimony told of a lesbian friend who lost an ovary due to untreated PCOS). This caused the the bombastic buffoon, Rush Limbaugh, to lambast Fluke, calling her a prostitute and a slut—at least 53 times for “demanding that the government pay for her to have sex.” Limbaugh has since issued a half-assed apology, and shrugs off losing advertisers, yet refuses to acknowledge being factually inaccurate.

To clarify: This contraception coverage mandate is not taking taxpayer money to pay for birth control for women of any age, marital status or moral standing. This mandate merely enforces a ruling made by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2000, which, using the precedent set by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, mandates that private insurers provide equal coverage for both the needs of male and female members—including religious institutions like universities and hospitals. In other words, if you pay into a private or employer-sponsored healthcare plan, like most citizens do, you should get something out of it. And what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. No one shakes a stick at the morality of covering erectile dysfunction medication. The ads for Viagra and Celebrex are as ubiquitous as those for Yaz and NuvaRing; yet it’s somehow more acceptable to picture old people in matching outdoor clawfoot tubs than young, professional women taking charge of their future.  

Now, I don’t care what party affiliation you are, or whether you’re pro-choice or pro-life. If you’re reading this, you are likely a woman first. Apparently, 80% of all Latinos, regardless of religion, gender or political affiliation, agree that women should have easy access to birth control and that this birth control debate should be a non-issue for this election, according to a recent poll by Latino Decisions.

So what’s really at stake here? If you think that this is just election-year bombast, or that the laws being passed in Virginia, Oklahoma and Mississippi are isolated cases, think again: Similar bills of state-sanctioned, misogynistic conservatism are already on the dockets in at least 26 states that aim to limit women’s access to birth control or abortions–and right in the crosshairs are poor Black and Latina women. Slowly but surely, women and minority rights are being usurped, with the color of our skin being used to cast aspersions and assumptions about our baby-making/job-stealing/etc. potential.

BRIEF HISTORY OF WOMEN AND MINORITY RIGHTS
Put this in historical context: Women have only been granted the right to vote for less than 100 years. The Civil Rights movement was only 50 years ago. Countless lives have been lost for this unalienable right for women and minorities to liberty, life and the pursuit of happiness. If blacks were once considered 3/5 of a person, what are women?

Back in the 50s, 60s and 70s, Black, Latina and Native American women were sterilized without their consent as a form of population control. Ironically, in 2012, lawmakers don’t want poor women to have access to birth control or abortions, yet they want to deride them for applying for food stamps and/or WIC benefits. They would rather grant a fetus in the womb the same rights as a tax-paying citizen who contributes to society, but not offer any assistance in raising that fetus once it leaves the womb. In effect, we’re screwed.

The seminal Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision—which grants women seeking a first-trimester abortion due process under the law, according to the 14th amendment—will arguably celebrate its 40th anniversary on January, 22, 2013. This is eerily close to the next Inauguration date. The Right is already threatening to dismantle it, if not overturn it altogether. It stands to reason that the next President of the United States will make another Supreme Court nomination or two in the next four years. If we are to keep these human-rights decisions in tact, we Latinas must continue to fight. There’s no room for waffling or second-guessing, or even boycotting the voter’s booth come November. According to a recent Fox News poll, Latinos are overwhelmingly in favor of Obama. Espero que si. No president is infallible, but out of the other candidates vying for the title, Obama is the most human. Like me, he has daughters to raise in this crazy world. And he knows that whatever we do or don’t do now—as citizens, as minorities, as parents—our children’s future is riding on it.