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A Bittersweet Health Care Reform Victory…at the Expense of Women and Immigrants

Breaking News

Last night, the House of Representatives voted 219-212 to pass health care reform.

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health commends Congress and the Administration for continuing to push for much-needed health reform and we encourage the Senate to pass the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act that includes critical pieces affecting our community.  

However, this battle was fought on the bodies of women and immigrant women.  In the eleventh hour, President Barack Obama caved to the demands of a handful of anti-choice Democrats by agreeing to use the lives of women as trade.  He will use his pen to add weight to the already cumbersome abortion restrictions in the health care bill.  Latinas, immigrants, and women of color are deeply affected by any language restricting abortion access – because women of color and immigrants are disproportionately poor, they are less likely to be able to pay for reproductive health care out-of-pocket, which puts them at risk for seeking alternative, unsafe abortion methods. While health reform might lead to more Latinas being covered, it leaves out a significant portion of the population.  By excluding and stigmatizing immigrants and women who need abortions, we are pushing them to the shadows of our health care system and placing unfair burden on the already-strained system of community health care centers and emergency rooms.  Over half of all immigrants are women, and 53% of all immigrants are from Latin America; though it has yet to be signed by the President, this bill is outdated already. 

NLIRH has been working tirelessly over the past year to ensure that the health care reform process was one that included the needs of women and families in our communities. Our activists have been engaged in unprecedented numbers – evidence that the women in our communities know more than anyone else how deeply health care reform is needed. 

If passed by the Senate, reconciliation package will cover an estimated 9 million uninsured Latinos and increase funding for community health centers, which is a lifeline for many in our neighborhoods. In addition, 4.4 million Americans in Puerto Rico and territories will receive $6.3 billion in new Medicaid funding, increased flexibility in how to use federal funding, access to the Exchange and $1 billion in subsides for low-income residents. Finally, we also know that this bill will expand family planning under Medicaid, increasing access to preventative reproductive health care service

However, that women were used as wedges in this process is absolutely unacceptable.  Over and over, our needs were compromised away. The fact that health care reform has passed in the House represents a truly historic moment for the United States. That it is marred by the President’s inability to protect the rights of women is truly disappointing.