Reproductive Justice, Immigrant Justice, and a Call for Humanity

Guest Post Written by Louise Vazquez, Boulder Valley Women’s Health Development and Communications Coordinator

Issues of immigration and reproductive justice have been on the forefront of recent U.S. politics. As the child of an immigrant and employee of a health center that strives to provide care to those in need, it has come to my attention that intersectionalities existing between immigration and reproductive justice must be recognized in order to approach the very real problems our country faces with how we treat those we perceive as “foreign.”

In my experience with immigrant families, healthcare (reproductive care included) is hard to come by. Especially, when access to citizenship (and its rights) is a complicated and lengthy process, and ICE raids around the country have become far more frequent and intrusive than what is appropriate for legal authorities to carry out. Alongside this, the recent proposed change to the “Public Charge” Rule  brings to light that there are current and very real threats to immigrants receiving the care they need in this country. To elaborate, the proposed “Public Charge” rule change would:

  • Expand the definition and the considerations in the public charge test to include non-cash public benefits. That means that if an immigrant wants to access or has accessed a public health program such as Medicaid or another type of support for themselves or their immigrant children they could be denied entry or deported.

This rhetoric of fear surrounding immigrants seeking necessary care drives home the need to address that immigrant justice and reproductive justice sit in the same tree.

Further, matters of immigration and reproductive justice have long been issues steeped in determining the humanity of others, whether that be through deciding if you have the right to make your own choices about your health, or deem whether or not you are human enough to even have access to healthcare. Neglect of immigrants creates an equally negative outcome in their reproductive health. According to the National Women’s Law Center,

  • Only about half of immigrant women at risk for unintended pregnancy received contraceptive care in the last year. In contrast, two-thirds of U.S.-born women received contraceptive care.

  • Immigrant women have higher rates of unintended pregnancy.

  • Immigrant women are less likely to receive cervical cancer screening, which has serious consequences for immigrant women’s health. For example, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Latina immigrant women have higher rates of cervical cancer and higher rates of death caused by cervical cancer because of low access to preventative care and screening.

Immigrant suffering in the U.S. is highly exacerbated due to denied access to reproductive health care. Alongside this, unintended pregnancy poses high costs to more than just those carrying the pregnancies. Disparity in reproductive care effects all of us. Immigrants do not hold a privileged place in US society and lack of access to reproductive healthcare furthers this institutionalized hardship. In an article by the Huffington Post, Holly Bland, speaks on the story of activist Alejandra Pablos. In the article, Pablos explains that her status as an undocumented immigrant made her need for an abortion, “all too real”. She states, “The same people who would force me to continue my pregnancy are the same people who would rip my baby from my arms and deport me because of my immigration status.” Taking all of this into account, it is important to recognize why people are denied these so-called “U.S. rights.” By only giving those deemed as citizens of the U.S. reproductive healthcare (or healthcare in general), we deny all others this right. Not because we do not see them as citizens, but because we do not see them as human. The incredibly cruel and foul treatment of immigrants in this country is a blatant denial of the humanity of those who work, live, and raise families just as the rest of us do. Reproductive justice is not just a US issue. It is an issue that moves to see that all humans have the means and ability to access care that can mean their lives, their family’s lives, and the betterment of the society around them. US citizens fighting for reproductive rights should not be fighting only for themselves, because true reproductive justice acknowledges that regardless of where you come from, you are human, and therefore, you deserve access to care. This is why I began my journey with Boulder Valley Women’s Health. Here, we realize this and hope that those reading this post sympathize with our commitment to help those in need regardless of their status. If you believe in this cause and wish to help immigrants gain the care they need, here are some simple steps you can take to make this happen:

  • Refer them to us. We provide a wide range of reproductive health services regardless of immigration, income, or insurance status in a safe and accepting environment.

  • Be politically active. Get out there and move against policy like the “Public Charge” Proposal that unfairly disadvantages immigrants and policy that threatens reproductive healthcare. This can be through publicly commenting on proposed rules during the rulemaking process, voting, calling your representatives, writing a letter, protesting, and supporting organizations like Boulder Valley Women’s Health that provide care and resources for disadvantaged populations.

You are powerful and together we can make change in this country. Reproductive and general healthcare should not be U.S. privileges. We have a role in standing up for what’s right, and that means coming together to say we all deserve rights to clinical care, not because we live in this country, but because we share common humanity.

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