Reproductive Healthcare for All

Many thanks to our intern, Claire, for her work on this post.

By now, you probably have heard a lot about Arizona’s newest immigration measure, SB 1070. The new law, which was signed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on April 23 and will go into effect at the end of July, makes it a crime to be in the country without proper paperwork and requires police to question individuals about their status if they are suspected undocumented immigrants. It is widely regarded as our country’s most extreme anti-immigration measure and sets a dangerous precedent for other states to adopt similar legislation. This bill has already been analyzed from several angles – politically, economically, even in terms of professional athletics – but its implications for reproductive justice have not yet drawn appropriate attention. More than half of all immigrants are women – what will SB 1070 mean for them and their access to safe, legal, comprehensive reproductive services?

Recently, NARAL VA ally SisterSong came out in opposition to SB 1070, raising valid concerns about the law’s effect of immigrant women’s access to these vital reproductive services. SisterSong Deputy Coordinator Laura Jimenez writes that the “The ripple effect of such a measure will be the heightened sense of fear and trauma within the community, leading to hesitancy to seek social services, including medical and emergency services. Will immigrant women feel safe enough to even attempt to access reproductive health care services such as family planning or obstetric and gynecological care?”

The question of whether immigrant women will feel safe to access reproductive health services after this law goes into effect is a big concern – especially considering the fact that immigrant women, regardless of their legal status, are already incredibly vulnerable. For example, a recent Amnesty International report found that six out of 10 Central American women are raped in Mexico, as they make on the way to the United States. Now, SB 1070 would increase the gulf of trust between law enforcement agents and immigrant communities, compounding the problems of immigrant women. A Jezebel article points out that “once in the United States, if these women suffer some of the violence that all women can suffer — partner violence and rape, for starters — the fear of law enforcement leaves them little recourse. The Arizona law essentially ensures that this will be the case, as it requires that police request identification from anyone they think might be in the country illegally.”

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health also recognizes SB 1070’s catastrophic implications for reproductive justice of all immigrants, pointing out that immigrant women are already “less likely to receive adequate reproductive health care, including cervical and breast cancer screening and treatment, family planning services, HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, accurate sex education and culturally and linguistically competent services” because they are more likely to work in industries that are underpaid, lack basic worker protections, and offer no benefits. The Institute goes on to declare that “reproductive health and rights organizations who promote the basic values of dignity, justice, and self-determination MUST speak out in support of the basic principles of immigration reform, which include a path to citizenship and protection for all immigrant families.”

The bill was also criticized by President Obama, who said it would “undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.” We at NARAL VA believe that all women should be trusted to make their own decisions about reproductive health and rights, so it is inherently problematic that this bill undermines the trust between women and those who could provide them with comprehensive reproductive health services. We stand with SisterSong, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and countless other organizations in condemning Arizona’s SB 1070, in the best interests of all communities across our nation.

We’re keeping our eye on things here in Virginia as well to ensure all those in commonwealth have access to affordable and accessible reproductive health care. In fact, keep your ears open to learn more about our upcoming summer project to ensure that all Virginians- including those who speak English as a second language – have access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare.

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