By Linda Levinson
Despite the perceived conservative and family-centric nature of Latinos, many may be developing a more progressive attitude toward reproductive health and a woman’s right to choose. And as with other communities, opinions on this social issue remain deeply divided.
On the pro-life side, Leticia Velasquez, of Canterbury, Conn., an author and a spokesperson for Hispanics for Life, a national pro-life organization with dedicated to educating Hispanics on life issues and abortion, believes the number of Latinas having abortions is “very countercultural” and “seems contradictory”.
But studies and polls seem to indicate Latino attitudes are shifting on this issue and they are increasingly supporting abortion rights in light of the availability of reproductive services. A poll conducted by the Guttmacher Institute in 2011 on the incidence of abortion in the U.S. showed that Hispanic women accounted for 25 percent of abortions. Non-Hispanic white women accounted for 36 percent and black women for 30 percent. Nine percent were from women of other races.
Another study conducted in 2011 by the National Latino Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) and the Reproductive Health Technologies Project found a majority of Latinos supported access to legal abortion and agreed that they would offer support to a close friend or family member who had an abortion. Most also opposed political interference in personal, private decisions concerning abortion.
Velasquez, who is a volunteer counselor at a crisis pregnancy center, blames the increase among Latinas seeking abortions as something imposed by “well-meaning” social workers.
“The culture that naturally occurs in Hispanics is being changed,” she said. “Families and babies are very central.”
Organizations providing reproductive health care are urging young women to abort in the case of an unplanned pregnancy, she added.
When Velasquez worked with pregnant young women at the crisis center, she urged them to consider what they would do if they had the proper support and then worked with them to obtain it.
“I advise them to think about their values,” she said.
Mary Bawza, Chief Operating Officer of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, said the agency provides unbiased counseling for women.
“For all positive pregnancy tests, it is the policy of PPSNE to provide unbiased, non-judgmental counseling, at which time the patient must be given the opportunity to consider all her options,” she said.
Planned Parenthood offers the counseling sessions, as well as all patient interactions, in Spanish through bilingual staff members and free medical interpretive services.
During the session, patients are informed of the risks, benefits and alternatives of continuing or ending the pregnancy and are encouraged to discuss their feelings, relationship and support.
The consent form provided by Planned Parenthood is also offered in Spanish.
Bawza said that Planned Parenthood provides information, but does not steer a woman’s decision.
“Ultimately, decisions about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy, or raise a child must be left to a woman, her family, and her faith, with the counsel of her doctor or health care provider,” she said.
“Abortion is a deeply personal and often complex decision for a woman, and no one can make that decision for someone else.”
Photo by @WarmSleepy.