Latinas: Have Your Voices Heard

Dorothy Ann Van, of Surf City, Long Beach Island, N.J., who was displaced by Superstorm Sandy, stands at the front of a line
Dorothy Ann Van, of Surf City, Long Beach Island, N.J., who was displaced by Superstorm Sandy, stands at the front of a line to vote Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, in Burlington, N.J., at a Mobile Voting Precinct. Election officials say Superstorm Sandy had knocked out about 900 polling places in one way or another. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Women across the country are making an important decision -- whom do they trust more to lead our country -- President Obama or Mitt Romney?

This is arguably one of the most important elections of our lifetime. And it will be the women, especially Latinas, who will play a key role in deciding the outcome. There are 23.7 million Latinos eligible to vote -- and together we can make sure our voice is heard. The time is now to have your say, not only for your future, but for your family and community as well.

There's no question, the stakes are high for all Americans, and in particular the 38 percent of hardworking Latinas who are currently living without health insurance for themselves or their families. One candidate has vowed to do away the Affordable Care Act, a spot of hope for many who need access to quality health care and has also openly said that he intends to "get rid of" Planned Parenthood, the only source of that care for many. Surely, that candidate, Mitt Romney knows that Latinas are more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer than any other group or that approximately "one in three also report delaying or going without care in the past year because of cost" and 38 percent "have the highest rate of uninsurance of all groups of women." But if he knows, then does that mean he's actively decided not to make the health of the Latino community a priority?

In contrast, for the past four years, President Obama has consistently put the issues that women care about at the top of his agenda -- whether it's equal pay for equal work or ensuring accessible and affordable health care for all women, including critical preventive care and lifesaving screenings. He understands the issues we care about, and we should feel confident that he will continue to protect us and put our issues first when he is re-elected to lead our great nation for another four years.

But if we, as a community, do nothing and decide to stay home and not exercise our right to vote, consider the alternative: A future with Mitt Romney as president is more than unclear but downright dangerous for Latinas. The disparities in access to health care would only get worse if Romney were elected president. He would unravel President Obama's landmark health care reform law, which provides all women access to affordable health care, prevents insurance companies from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions and allows children to stay on their parents health insurance until they are 26 years-old. If Romney were successful in his vow to defund Planned Parenthood and the hundreds of health care centers that millions of women around the country have come to rely on every day for well-woman checkups, clinical breast exams, cervical cancer screenings, and family planning, it would be devastating. A Romney presidency would likely oppose equal pay laws, since Romney won't say if he supports them, seek to overturn Roe v. Wade -- ending safe and legal abortion, and appoint Supreme Court Justices who share his dangerous ideology. Yet, despite this avowed opposition and record against women's health and rights, Gov. Romney, in a final reach for votes, has attempted to portray himself in the most crudely transparent way, as a supporter of women and the issues we care about most.

To see what a Romney administration would look like, we need only look at states where leaders have tried to defund Planned Parenthood health centers. Women in these states, have seen firsthand how these bad policies, promoted by Mitt Romney, are hurting women today by prohibiting them from critical health care services, which in some parts of the country are provided by Planned Parenthood health centers alone.

Nearly 3 million Americans rely on Planned Parenthood health centers' critical health care services, including contraception, cervical cancer screenings and breast exams, and other preventative services. Of this total, 23 percent of Planned Parenthood patients are Latino. Planned Parenthood is proud of the care, education and resources provided in communities across the country, including our promotores program, which educates Latinas about reproductive health and helps them navigate the complicated health care system when follow-up is needed.

Voting is not just a civic duty. It is your voice and wish for a world where you and your children are healthier and have the power to choose. President Obama's support of women's health and rights, his passage of the Affordable Care Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, demonstrates why he is our best choice. During this time of high stakes, it is more crucial than ever to be engaged and vote -- and to give your voice a chance to be heard. In 2008, Latinas made the difference in the presidential election in swing states like New Mexico and Nevada. Today, as we face the tightest election in recent history in states all across the nation it may very well be determined by the Latina vote, of which every single one will count.

It's time to exercise the power Latinas have not only in numbers, but in influence within families. On Election Day, take your tias, primas and amigas to the polls. Let's make sure we continue to go forward building, not undoing a brighter, healthier future.