Raising their voices shouting “Yo Te Apoyo! Yo Te Apoyo!” and raising posters reading, “Salud. Dignitad. Justicia,” “Somos 1 de cada 3,” and most powerfully, "Somos Beatriz," a crowd full of activists and supporters gathered to support Beatriz, a Salvadorean woman caught in the midst of international reproductive human rights entanglement.
The 22-year-old recently faced a traumatic ordeal to obtain necessary medical care after she and her fetus faced critical health crises. Yesterday's Vigil for Beatriz, organized by Advocates for Youth, Ipas,the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the 1 in 3 Campaign, and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive demonstrated solidarity for Beatriz and called for the continuation of accessible reproductive rights.
The substantial representation of Latinidad at a pro-choice rally both thrilled me and caught me a bit by surprise. As a millennial Latina feminist, many of my personal networks are full of rad women of color. However, today's mainstream portrayals of feminism and pro-choice supporters are often remain limited to white straight wealthy women. Meanwhile, Latinos are pigeonholed as categorically conservative or rampantly oversexed. Our women are deemed innately promiscuous, our men are considered to be aggressively misogynistic.
But ya basta, enough. Latinas, especially millennial Latinas, refuse to be continuously mislabeled as categorically anti-abortion. While misinformed pundits might try to speak for (or rather, over) Latina attitudes towards reproductive justice, it's time that Latinos' nuanced views are recognized and are taken seriously by American politics. Continuing to blindly sort Latinas into an "either/or" categories can only lead to further alienation from the major political parties. And as young Latinas continue to become electoral powerhouses, allowing faulty stereotypes to function as political truths will be a great way to continuing losing elections.
Jessica González-Rojas, the executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, urgently expressed the necessity for safe abortions worldwide, in the United States, and particularly amongst communities of color. Echoing the Advocates for Youth's 1 in 3 Project, González-Rojas personalized the profile of an American woman seeking an abortion: likely a mother, in her 20s, and contending with a immensely personal choice. A profile that matches strongly with Beatriz, and countless millennials around the country and world.
Calling for the Latino community to "come out of the closet as supporters of women's reproductive health," González-Rojas introduced the NLIRH's "Yo Te Apoyo, I support you project." In her words, the new effort lifts "the voices of the Latino community and our allies in support of our sisters, our daughters, our primes, tías, and any woman who is making a difficult decision." Take a look below:
Through its focus on "family, respect, and cariño," the Yo Te Apoyo project provides excellent insight on how the Latino community actually approaches reproductive justice. It helps to provide a voice to the 74% of Latino registered voters who believe that women have a right to their own personal decisions about abortion, and it animates the two thirds of Latinos voters who say they would support a loved one who had an abortion. And it also reflects the 68% of Latino voters who confirm the statement "even though church leaders take a position against abortion, when it comes to the law, I believe it should remain legal." This 2011 poll by Lake Research Partners confirms the traditional view that Latinos highly value family; but it reveals how we also value reproductive rights to support the women who so strongly constitute our families.
From a policy-wonk perspective, recognizing the nuanced nature of Latino abortion attitudes will be exceedingly important for elections to come. According to Pew Research, the decisive Latino block of the 2012 elections is only going to accumulate more power as young millennial Latinos continue to register into the electorate. A report released by Pew earlier this month concluded that "among the 3.8 million Latinos who became eligible to vote between 2008 and 2012, 3.7 million were U.S.-born young Hispanics who entered adulthood." That's yours truly and a couple other million new voters. The Pew Hispanic Center has projected that Latinos could constitute 40% of eligible voters growth by 2030. I don't need to be Nate Silver to tell you, that's huge.
I also spoke with Aimee Thorne-Thomsen, Vice President for Strategic Partnerships of Advocates with Youth, about how young Latinos continue to change the game. "I think what we see with milineal Latinas is that they are more vocal and they are more active," she said. "So we have something like 60 or two thirds of millennials who support abortion access in their community. So regardless of how they feel about it, they want someone in their comunidad, their barrio, the vecindad, who can provide safe services for their community. And they can also say, "regardless of what I feel personally, I believe that abortion should be available and legal."
Young Latinas call not only for more accessible reproductive justice in their communities, but they also offer a more rational, compassionate approach to talking about such a divisive issue. As the research and personal testimonies have shown and will continue to show, Latinas prioritize the well-being of their loved one above political squirmishes. Similarly, the reaction to Beatriz's ordeal has demonstrated the power of charged empathy. Organizers from across the world, particularly the strong DC Salvadoreño community, mobilized their knowledge, connections, and resources to ensure that Beatriz and her family would not meet the same fate as Samita.
If conservatives continue to push anti-abortion legislation, like the House bill, they do so at the risk of further jeopardizing women's health as well as further alienating a key electorate from their coalition.
More than just changing policy, Latinas have the power to change the shape of the discourse. As Aimee Thorne-Thompson offered, "So as we share stories, not just Beatriz's stories, but other stories, we break the silence, we erase some of the stigma, and allow people to come forward with their truth, and to support it fully. And not just to support it in policy, but support it in culture, global advocacy, to support it in the media. The work has not to just be rules and regulations, but how we as society talk about these things."
Thanks to Advocates for Choice for vigil pictures and poster. To see Reality Check's recorded life stream of the Vigil click here.