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An attack on Planned Parenthood turns out to be an all-out assault on low-income Latinas

LatinaLista — Planned Parenthood. The mere mention of the organization immediately conjures up negative images thanks to several GOP politicians who found it quite easy to rake the organization through the mud during the recent budget debates.


Though Planned Parenthood has been around for 95 years providing programs, information and much needed health and family services to women, men and adolescents, these politicians would have us all think that the organization is nothing more than an abortion stop-and-shop service.

“Only three percent of Planned Parenthood’s services deal with abortion,” Destiny Lopez, director of Latino Engagement for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told reporters on an afternoon press teleconference call titled “Federal and state attacks on Latina reproductive health.”

Noting the intensity of the recent legislative budget debate and the adverse impact on the organization if its budget is cut, Lopez revealed that nationally 23 percent of Planned Parenthood’s clients are Latina, with a 191 percent increase since 2000 in the number of Latinos who also access Planned Parenthood services.

According to Lopez and several regional directors of affiliate Planned Parenthood branches from South Florida, South Texas and California, the Latinas who use Planned Parenthood rely on the organization for all their healthcare screenings, preventive services and information about pregnancy, sex and sex-related diseases because these women, who are basically uninsured or underinsured, have no other resource.

Patricio Gonzales, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Association in Hidalgo County (Texas), and whose branch services 23,000 women primarily Latina, said that his typical client is between the ages of 20-24 and is married with two children. He said they would be forced to go to Mexico to seek affordable services if his organization was defunded.

Elizabeth Barajas-Román, director of policy at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, told reporters on the call that she felt there are two attacks underway targeting Latinas as part of the hostility towards Planned Parenthood.

“One attack is from lawmakers stripping essential services like accessing sex education and family planning, services relied upon by Latinas, and the other is a stealth attack that is attaching a stigma to the debate by using (negative) rhetoric and terms like “anchor babies,” Barajas-Román said.

To counter these attacks, Barajas-Román said that her organization is supporting legislators who are combating these kinds of attacks.

When challenged by one reporter as to why anyone on the panel would think Latinas are under attack by legislators, the reply came swiftly:

“Latinas are disproportionate for having higher rates of being uninsured and for being low-income,” replied Barajas-Román.

Their economic situation plus the fact that undocumented Latinas are afraid to seek out healthcare services because of their citizenship status leaves many of them vulnerable to falling gravely ill from preventable diseases if they received the proper screening and advice.

“In Washington state, 78 percent of the Latinas have not had pap smears,” said Barajas-Román citing proof as to why there are such high rates of cervical cancer among Washington-state Latinas.

In Florida, where conservative legislators have targeted family planning services through legislation restricting women’s health services, Lillian Tamayo, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast affiliate, added,”Latinas have the highest pregnancy and birth rates in the state. A by-product of this legislation will be a great drop-off of women accessing the healthcare they need.”

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