Opinion | Voces Unidas: Protecting and expanding access to reproductive health care and abortion is crucial for democracy

Dusti Gurule and Alex Sánchez
Voces Unidas

The Latino community knows first-hand what it means for the government to marginalize our needs when it comes to health care. We are the largest uninsured racial-ethnic majority, and are often targets of misinformation and stigmatizing information when trying to access reproductive health care.

That’s why the Latino community wants to see more intentional policy action in protecting and expanding abortion access. And it’s why our organization continues to work in Colorado to expand access for everyone, regardless of immigration status, age, religion or income. Colorado must not only continue to provide access to safe and dignified abortion care, but expand it for all those who need it.

Reproductive justice is not just about the ability to decide — it’s about access. And while we take pride in Colorado’s commitment to reproductive health, we must take additional steps to ensure wide and equitable access to abortion care. That includes removing an outdated Constitutional prohibition on using state money for abortions, as well as enshrining the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which was passed by lawmakers earlier this year, into the state Constitution as an amendment affirming and protecting a person’s right to choose to have an abortion.

The narrowly approved 1984 state constitutional amendment that prohibits the use of public funds for abortions disproportionately affects Colorado’s Latino community and other lower-income populations by limiting access to essential reproductive health care solely to those with financial means or private health insurance. Coloradans shouldn’t have to choose between paying for basic needs or paying for health services like birth control, prenatal care or abortion care. Reproductive justice is economic justice, and is vital for the livelihood of all communities that have been marginalized by our health care system.

In order to further expand reproductive justice in Colorado, state-funded insurance plans including Medicaid and Colorado state employee health insurance must be allowed to cover abortions. Likewise, health care operators that receive state funding must be able to expand existing abortion services, rather than forcing private organizations like Planned Parenthood to address rising demand.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Colorado has become a refuge for abortion access, stretching limited resources in a trend that is unlikely to change. But not everyone is impacted equally when abortion access is pushed out of reach. Abortion care has always been out of reach for Latinas and Latinos and other communities of color who face systemic barriers, even when Roe v. Wade was the law of the land. And the inability to use state funds to expand abortion services will only increase the burden on the shoulders of those where it already falls hardest.

We are not willing to allow that to continue.

Community power is at the core of our movement for reproductive justice, and Colorado’s Latino community stands united in support of protecting and expanding access to safe abortions and reproductive rights for state residents. According to our recently released Colorado Latino Policy Agenda, nearly 70% of Latino adults support passing laws to protect access to safe abortions, spanning virtually every demographic — Democrats (74%), Republicans (60%), Independents (65%), men (70%), women (67%), and across the religious spectrum, including Catholics (65%).

It’s clear that the Latino community wants to see more policy action on abortion, and the support for legally protected abortions extends to support for other related policies as well. Among them, the poll indicated that 60% of Latino voters would support using state Medicaid dollars for abortion services and nearly as many support using federal Medicaid dollars.

And we saw that support reflected through issue-driven motivation at the ballot box this November.

Not only did some 57% of Latino voters surveyed in the pre-election poll say they were more likely to vote after knowing that the Supreme Court repealed Roe v. Wade, but nearly two-thirds (61%) of those surveyed further expressed their willingness to vote for candidates willing to expand abortion access in 2022. The polling numbers translated to the election of candidates most aligned on the issue up and down the ballot in the vast majority of our state, with data from the first-ever Colorado Latino Exit Poll indicating that the Latino voting bloc played a significant role in the outcome.

The Colorado Latino Policy Agenda and exit polls show us what we’ve known for a long time — that our community values the freedom to choose and determine their own futures, demonstrated by nearly 7 in 10 saying they trust individuals to make their own decisions about reproductive health care without politicians interfering. And, ultimately, that protecting and expanding our access to the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion care, is crucial for democracy. Without it, our collective liberation remains at risk.

Latinos are a powerful force in the health and wellbeing of our democracy, just as they are a force behind protecting abortion access by steering our elected leaders toward policies that reflect modern Colorado values. The Reproductive Health Equity Act declaring a person’s right to make reproductive health decisions without government interference is an essential step, but in the absence of resources to expand abortion access it will never truly provide equity. And the lack of state funding remains a major barrier to access.

Our commitment to raising our community up by bringing it with us to the policymaking table also remains, and we invite you to participate. If you believe in true reproductive justice, join us in continuing the work to remove restrictions on the use of state funds for abortions. If you are outraged by the end of Roe v. Wade, continue to make your voice heard by working with us to prioritize our values among our elected officials. We must be committed to enacting policies that expand access and insurance coverage for abortion, so that everyone can get the abortion care they need to thrive in their communities.

Dusti Gurule, left, and Alex Sánchez, right

Dusti Gurule is Chair of the Board of Directors of Voces Unidas Action Fund. She is also president and CEO of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity & Reproductive Rights. Alex Sánchez is the founder and CEO of Voces Unidas Action Fund, a Latino-created, Latino-led nonprofit organization working in Summit, Lake, Eagle, Pitkin and Garfield counties.

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