Think Progress

For me, the struggle for reproductive autonomy has never been separate from the struggle for justice for immigrants.

That’s true for many women in my family, too, whose ability to make reproductive health decisions have been deeply connected to their status as workers and to the conditions in which they lived. Our family’s journey from South Texas to Oregon as farmworkers is like so many who traveled in search of a life with dignity for themselves and their children. The struggle for living wages, dignity in the workplace, and access to needed health care are all connected through these human stories.

In Oregon, we’re doing that by advancing legislation to expand reproductive health coverage, including abortion services, for all people — regardless of how much you make or your citizenship status.

The Reproductive Health Equity Act ensures that Oregonians, regardless of income, citizenship status, gender identity or type of insurance, have access to the full range of preventive reproductive health services, including family planning, abortion, and postpartum care. No more would people in our state be forced to pay out of pocket and be pushed to the economic brink having to pay for this necessary care.
Today, as we face the most hostile political environment in a generation, it’s urgent that we speak out and show up for immigrants — ourselves, our loved ones, and our neighbors. Our communities live at the intersection of identities that are under attack today: they are students, workers, immigrants, LGBTQ people, women, and families, and the time is now to align in solidarity.

As the experiences of the women in my family show — along with those of so many of other immigrant women and families — we cannot secure our health, self-determination, and the right to build and raise our families with dignity if we do not include immigrants in our vision for justice. Immigrant women are part of our communities, they raise families, care for others, work, and contribute to our social and economic well-being. But Trump and the anti-woman, anti-immigrant leadership in Congress have doubled down on cruel and punitive immigration policies that exclude immigrant women from health coverage, tear families apart, and create a climate of fear that pushes women into the shadows.

Politicians have made it nearly impossible for immigrant women to get health insurance, and Trump’s sweeping detention and deportation raids have left many people terrified to leave their homes. Imagine being afraid to pick up your child from school, or go to a doctor’s appointment, because you are worried about being picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE agents have targeted vulnerable women in truly despicable ways, including: arresting a woman at a gynecologist’s office in front of her two small children, and waiting outside a courthouse to arrest a transgender woman who was testifying against her abuser.

Once a woman has been detained, it gets even worse. Those held in immigration detention are forcibly separated from their children, sometimes being taken hundreds of miles away from their home and support networks, and are routinely denied needed care including prenatal care, abortion services, and HIV medication.
Even outside of detention, an immigrant women’s prospects for getting health care are dim. Millions of immigrants are banned from participating in health insurance, and others are forced to go without coverage for at least five years. Five years is a lifetime for a woman with a lump in her breast or facing an unwanted pregnancy.

Women’s rights, reproductive health, gender justice — none of these lofty goals will be achieved unless we address the brutal immigration policies and practices that target immigrant women and make it difficult or impossible for them to make their own decisions about their health, families, and futures.
Our communities prosper when we all do our part and work together — and we reject when politicians attempt to divide us. Donald Trump has made a career out of insulting immigrants and bullying women, but we won’t be punished by his agenda of hate and shame. And we won’t let Donald Trump bully or punish cities that refuse to participate in his cruel immigration enforcement.

Despite the challenging policy landscape, there’s a movement across the country to advance a proactive policy agenda to strengthen reproductive health care. In just the first three months of 2017, legislators introduced 405 proactive measures seeking to expand access to sexual and reproductive health services, including 56 proactive bills to advance abortion access and coverage in 22 states like California, Minnesota, Illinois, and Oregon.

And last week, Multnomah County, Oregon joined localities across the country demanding insurance coverage of abortion care as part of a broad, coordinated effort by the All* Above All coalition, a grassroots group that works to lift barriers to abortion coverage. Similar proclamations have passed in recent years in localities across the country, including Boston, MA; Cambridge, MA; Cook County, IL; Ithaca, NY; Los Angeles, CA; Madison, WI; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA (Board of Health); Philadelphia, PA (City Council); San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; and Travis County, TX.

Here in Oregon, we’re leading the way to show what it means to support and respect all our families and community members. Including our immigrant friends and neighbors in reproductive health coverage is an important first step toward a future where all our decisions are respected, all contributions recognized, and where our families can thrive.

Amy Casso is the Gender Justice Program Director at the Western States Center.


AuthorChristine Saunders