Latinas powerful force in 2010 Elections
The 2010 election was a mixed result for Latinas and reproductive health, but one strong message came through: Latino/a’s are a powerful and active voting bloc, by some estimates Latino turnout could be as high as 60 percent.
“Latinas proved themselves a formidable voting constituency determined to cast their ballots despite political campaigns designed to depress Latina turnout,” said Silvia Henriquez, Executive Director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH). “This election was not a referendum on reproductive health and justice issues. However the new Congressional landscape raises the stakes for advocacy work on these issues.”
One of the most discouraging election results is the shake-up in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC). NLIRH’s partnership with CHC members has been instrumental in raising the voice of Latinas in healthcare reform, immigration and abortion access. Two important voices were defeated in this election by conservative opponents: CHC Whip, John Salazar (CO-03) and past CHC chair Ciro Rodriguez (TX-23).
In the aftermath of the election, the National Latina Institute will focus on saving the landmark health care law which will cover an estimated 9 million Latinos and increase funding for community health centers – a lifeline to many in our neighborhoods. Though many new House leaders have promised to take aim at the law, with a supportive stronghold elected in California and other allies nationwide, opportunities exist to continue reform focused on those most in need.
House Republicans have indicated their intent to drastically limit access and affordability of abortions by blocking abortion coverage in insurance plans. NLIRH will continue to work to protect existing coverage and push for public funding so that abortion can remain a safe, affordable option for Latinas.
California, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona: Latino/as are credited with tipping the scales in favor of the key races that preserve hard-fought gains for reproductive health and justice, including U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer in California and Michael Bennett in Colorado, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada, and Congressmember Raul Grijalva (AZ-7). Despite Reid’s lukewarm support for reproductive health issues, his role as Senate leader has opened many opportunities to advance a positive reproductive health agenda and he has been an advocate for advancing positive policy solutions on immigration.
Colorado Ballot Initiative: The only statewide ballot initiative on access to reproductive health was defeated in Colorado. Voters, including Latinos, rejected the “Personhood Amendment” which would have limited or banned abortion access and would ban the most common forms of birth control, including the pill.
Colorado: CHC Whip John Salazar – (CO-3) lost to Scott Tipton (R). This is a huge lost for Latinas because Tipton is anti-choice and was endorsed by the extreme anti-choice group Concerned Women for America PAC. He also wants to repeal the health care law and opposes legalization for undocumented immigrants.
New Mexico: Susana Martinez will become the first Latina Governor of New Mexico, and like most “tea party”–backed candidates, she is anti-choice and anti-gay marriage. She would further penalize immigrants with her plans to revoke a law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses.
Florida: “Tea party”-backed Marco Rubio will become the next Governor. The more moderate candidates (Independent Charlie Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek) seemed to split the vote and leave the victory to conservative Rubio, who has called Roe v Wade “a catastrophe” and promotes restrictive views on immigration, such as the draconian Arizona immigration bill.
Texas: Former CHC Chair and reproductive health supporter Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (TX-23) was forced to step down from a Congressional seat that many considered his stronghold – a district that stretches from El Paso to San Antonio. Unfortunately, Congressmember-elect Francisco Canseco (R) is likely to derail efforts that might support women’s issues. Canseco supports anti-immigrant policies and has the backing of all major anti-choice organizations. Also, a long-time Congressional leader, Solomon Ortiz, was defeated by Tea Party and anti-choice candidate, Blake Farenthold.
Wisconsin: The Latina community lost one of its strongest supporters when Ron Johnson (R) defeated Senator Russell Feingold (D) in the U.S. Senate race. Johnson, a plastics manufacturer, has promised to repeal health care reform stating that it is an “assault” on “freedom.” Johnson is also an anti-choice candidate that was endorsed by Wisconsin’s Right to Life group. Johnson also favors immigration tactics that harm Latinas and their families. For example, he supports stronger enforcement measures, REAL ID, and the Patriot Act and opposes any form of amnesty.
Nevada: Former federal judge Brian Sandoval (R) will become Nevada’s first Latino Governor. His election is a mixed-bag for Latinas. He opposes driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants and supports verification requirements and enhanced security on the boarder. Sandoval opposes the new health care reform law. Latinas can look to Sandoval for mixed support of their reproductive rights.
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