Wednesday, June 10, 2015

HB 2 Threatens Latina Health

WASHINGTON, DC (PR)— The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) condemns the decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit today vacating the lower court decision enjoining House Bill 2 (HB 2).

The decision leaves standing some of the most harmful provisions of HB 2 — a package of extreme abortion restrictions that threatens to close all but seven of the state's 40 previously operating abortion clinics and further threatens access to safe and legal abortion within the state. 

While most clinics shuttered by the law would stay closed, the decision would allow the Whole Woman’s Health clinic in McAllen, TX to continue providing abortion services for the time being, offering limited consolation to women struggling to access care.

In the decision, the judge cited the expert testimony of Lucy Felix, Texas Latina Advocacy Network senior field coordinator for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), who testified during the proceedings. Felix highlighted the devastating impact of the bill on Latinas’ ability to access safe and affordable reproductive health care services in the Rio Grande Valley, a fact which the circuit relied on to justify the continued need for the McAllen clinic.

Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of NLIRH, has issued the statement below about today’s decision:

“We are outraged with the court’s decision to allow some of the most harmful provisions of HB 2 to go into effect. While we are proud of the role our testimony played in keeping the McAllen clinic open for now, the overall impact of HB 2 will be devastating for Texas Latinas. Let’s be clear: the purpose of HB 2 was never to protect women, but to make abortion — which is a safe and legal procedure — out of reach in the state of Texas.

“While this decision is a loss for all Texas women, it’s particularly threatening for Latinas, who have been among the hardest hit by recent clinic closures throughout the state. Nearly 40 percent of Texas women are Latina, and Latinas are twice as likely to experience unintended pregnancies as non-Latina white women and more likely to be of reproductive age. Latinas already face formidable barriers to healthcare, including: poverty, lack of transportation, linguistic and cultural barriers, and restrictions on healthcare for immigrant women. This means that Latinas are among the most likely to rely on the very clinics HB 2 was designed to shut down. Today’s ruling is a step backwards for human rights in Texas.

“But we are not finished with this fight. Latinas will be watching as we help take this case all the way to the Supreme Court. Because we will not stop until every woman has access to abortion care when she needs it, regardless of her income, where she lives or her immigration status.”

UPDATE: In Florida

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law a measure that forces a woman to delay for 24 hours and make two separate trips before she is able to obtain a safe and legal abortion.

"We are living in perilous times for reproductive health and personal decision making. Yesterday, the Fifth Circuit allowed to stand an extreme abortion law in Texas, and today Florida passed yet another attack on our ability to make our own personal decisions about pregnancy and abortion,” said National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health Executive Director Jessica González-Rojas. “Forcing Floridians to endure a mandatory delay in accessing the abortion care they need is simply unconscionable. Florida Latinas are already struggling to access needed healthcare, and this new law will continue to take the state backward in terms of health and human rights."

Waiting periods can create a variety of burdens on someone needing to end a pregnancy— requiring additional trips to the clinic, which means additional travel time, transportation costs, child care, and time off work. Women of color, low-income women, rural women, and immigrant women already face obstacles when needing to access healthcare, and waiting periods only exacerbate these struggles. Additionally, these mandatory delays can force a woman to have an abortion later in her pregnancy, which can increase the risks of the otherwise extremely safe procedure.

Harmful restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 217/HR. 448)—a bill that would prohibit states like Florida from imposing restrictions on reproductive healthcare providers that do not apply to similar medical care, interfere with reproductive decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.

—> Data analyzed from 32 countries, constituting about 52% of the world’s population, and reported in the Lancet Commission on Women and Health, shows that women contribute around US$3 trillion in healthcare annually. The report is the culmination of three years work and represents an important milestone in the consideration of some of the key issues affecting women and their role in society.

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