The 40th anniversary of Roe V. Wade is approaching and I wonder if being a Latina limits my access to a safe and legal abortion? Coming from a conservative Catholic family and a community whose public education doesn’t provide comprehensive sex education, I could’ve easily blamed myself for becoming pregnant while away from home. ¿Por qué no pensé? ¿Por qué hice una estupidez? (Why wasn’t I thinking? Why such stupidity?) These overwhelming questions could’ve prevented me from realizing that this could’ve happened to anyone. Swaying me to believe that becoming pregnant should be a motive for chastising not the action alone, but myself. To this day, laws are constantly “regulating, and limiting whether, when and under what circumstances a woman may obtain an abortion.” Despite being exposed to anti-abortion messages, I opted for the abortion procedure I wanted. I felt at ease to say I didn’t have to stress about the legality of this “issue” in Southern California, but that is not to say that Latinas have the same access in other parts of the state or across the country.
While sitting in the doctor’s office after receiving the pregnancy results, I couldn’t help to think that there was more to what she asked me, “Do you think you’ll need counseling?” This question allowed me to imagine the very real situations in which states intervene in women’s bodies and decisions. Although I was able to access the critical services I needed, I know that my situation doesn’t always reflect the realities of other Latina women across California or the nation; where families, culture, media (i.e. Anti-abortion billboards in Los Angeles) play a role in the limitations of our choices. The legality of Roe v. Wade does not reflect our country’s culture where sex education is often times limited to abstinence-only, access to birth control and abortion services is disproportionate, and interactions perpetuate slut-bashing where sexually active youth are labeled as “too sexual.” Also engrained is the notion that young people, especially women, shouldn’t exercise their right to be healthy, sexual beings. No law has explained what “choice” may mean for immigrant families —my own— nor has it reflected the realities of the communities that live in the U.S. No, I didn’t need counseling for my situation. And no… the 40th year of Roe v. Wade is not evidence enough for proving women “have it all.”
The severity presented by other state measures challenge Roe v. Wade’s ruling. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 38 states require parental involvement if a teen who’s pregnant is seeking to access an abortion, 17 states mandate counseling services through crisis pregnancy centers, and 26 states require waiting periods. State and federal policies are being used to chip away the foundation of Roe v. Wade. It’s even evident in the anti-abortion messages that are being fed to our younger generation through media culture. The reproductive justice classes I took at college politicized me. They helped me reject the guilt that surrounds notions of “protecting” lives from their mothers as a reason to demonize women seeking abortions. My own experience does not deny the difficult experiences some women do go through after an abortion, but should instead incline us to consider the many contradictions our nation is filled with.
The barriers imposed for accessing a safe and legal abortion vary across geographic locations. There is, however, a resounding belief that access to reproductive health services is restricted due to cost of services and lack of insurance for the Latin@ community. “Unearthing Latina/o Voices on Family, Pregnancy, and Reproductive Justice,” demonstrates that “a high rate of Latina respondents, 62 percent under age 30 and 55 percent between the ages of 30-39, found costs and lack of insurance to be ‘large’ barriers to obtaining services.” Whether it’s financial situation, not wanting a child, family, religion, the absence of translating what choice means to immigrant communities, each play a prominent role in the accessibility or lack thereof access to holistic reproductive health options.
There’s a combination of forces (race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, nationality, immigration, language etc.) at large that manage our conscious to believe that “choice” exists when it is in fact still limited and nonexistent for many. For some women, it’s as if “choice” was never established 40 years ago.