Next week Republican Congressional leaders are poised to try and pass legislation that would defund Planned Parenthood. Despite the fact that the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood recently has been repeatedly debunked and discredited, many politicians, including many presidential hopefuls, continue to call on Congress to defund Planned Parenthood.
What they refuse to acknowledge is something that those in our community already know, defunding Planned Parenthood would hurt not only all Americans, but especially low-income Latino women and families -- the very base from which they hope to garner support in 2016.
Overall, Planned Parenthood provides affordable, quality preventive care and treatment to 2.7 million women, men and young people across the country. For many low-income women and women of color, Planned Parenthood is their main health care provider. In addition, over the last ten years, PPFA has significantly increased the numbers of male patients they serve, including from communities of color.
What would defunding mean for our community? Defunding Planned Parenthood would jeopardize services for the more than 575,000 Latinas who account for 22 percent of Planned Parenthood's overall patient mix. Planned Parenthood's role is even more critical when we consider the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating Latinas have the highest cervical cancer incidence rates.[ii] In addition, Latinas and African American women experience the highest mortality rates among women diagnosed with breast cancer and cervical cancer. Access to Planned Parenthood for early diagnosis is critical to the quality and length of these women's lives.
We know Latinos are often the ones who need access to affordable health care the most, but are the least likely to have access to it. Latinos continue to have the lowest rate of health care coverage of any ethnic group -- one quarter of us are uninsured. It's no surprise then that Latinas experience higher rates of preventable conditions including reproductive cancers and sexually transmitted infections than most other groups in the U.S.
The Latino community stands with Planned Parenthood because Planned Parenthood has always stood with us.
In addition to providing critical preventive care, Planned Parenthood has also shown up for the Latino community -- they have Raiz organizers in key states with high Latino populations to mobilize Latinos on the ground, they have Promotoras across the country who bring bilingual education into Latinos homes, they have played a key role in educating and enrolling Latinos in the Affordable Care Act during each and every open enrollment period, they have advocated for comprehensive immigration reform, and they continue to serve all Latinos without judgement, regardless of immigration status, with the highest quality of care.
Let's also be clear about what these recent efforts really mean -- it's a way to continue to keep an emerging power, a political and social power, without access to care that would ensure a healthy and vibrant generation. As a community, we need to say that we've had enough, we have a right to decide the type of care we need, and we have the ability to make those decisions for ourselves.
For many Latinos, Planned Parenthood is the only health care provider they have. Defunding Planned Parenthood may be a political talking point for some, but for the Latino women, men, and young people who rely on Planned Parenthood for health care, it's quite literally a matter of life and death.