The 2022 overturn of Roe v. Wade ended federal protections for abortion rights, leaving abortion policy to state legislatures.
In response, states such as Maryland have expanded protections for people seeking abortions. Back in May, Gov. Wes Moore (D) declared Maryland a safe haven for people in more restrictive states. Other states have restricted access to abortion after Roe v. Wade was overturned.
But in a virtual discussion Thursday, members of Maryland Latinos Unidos discussed how limited access to abortion and sexual health care around the world could have unintended consequences that Maryland and other states can consider when crafting their own policies.
Governments around the world are making important decisions about women’s ability to control their bodies and their lives, said Gabriela Lemus, executive director of Maryland Latinos Unidos. Some of the decisions are very restrictive, leading to mental health challenges, physical challenges, and even suicide.
This can cause some women to make really hard choices, drastic choices, to maintain their autonomy and personal sovereignty to benefit themselves and their families. They are looking between migration, departure or even sterilization, she said.
Although not discussed in Thursday’s conversation, transgender men and many non-binary people are also affected by policies that expand or limit reproductive health care.
Maryland Latinos Unidos is a coalition of diverse Maryland-based nonprofit organizations that advocate for the states’ Latino and immigrant populations.
Kelly Uma, senior health equity assessment and monitoring specialist at Maryland Latinos Unidos, said her interest has always been in advocating for critical health topics, especially for the Latino migrant community, as her family is from El Salvador.
In her doctoral program, Umaa looked at the consequences of restricting access to abortion in El Salvador, and said many women between the ages of 15 and 49 are choosing sterilization as a birth control method over contraception.
El Salvador prohibits abortion in all circumstances, and those seeking an abortion can be imprisoned for doing so, according to the Associated Press. Umaa noted that some of the lessons she observed in her research can be taken into account in Maryland as well.
We have a huge Latino community here in the US, especially in Maryland, where there is a huge Salvadoran diaspora, she added.
What are the effects of the leak when the guarded health is restored? What does it look like around education, economic opportunities. What does that look like in terms of our human empowerment that we would like to have and making decisions for ourselves, she said.
Bridget Kelly, a sexual and reproductive health advocate and PhD student at George Washington University’s Milken Institute of Public Health, volunteered with the Peace Corps in Ethiopia and said her experience there helped her realize how important it is to have access to good menstrual health for others. questions.
She said there is a challenge in talking about reproductive health care, not only in Ethiopia but also in the United States.
There has been a mix of equating reproductive health with abortion alone. And I want to say that abortion is a very critical component of sexual and reproductive health and rights, but it is not the only component. And so when we do that, we overlook and ignore other really important parts that may not be so controversial and taboo, Kelly said.
Some of the other topics under the reproductive health umbrella are maternal health and mortality, infertility issues, prevention of sexually transmitted infections and reproductive cancers, Kelly said.
Kelly noted that there are some unforeseen implications of revoking reproductive rights.
One issue that is not often talked about, but is coming up more and more, is the use of contraceptives, certain hormonal contraceptives to manage menstrual disorders. So it’s like heavy menstrual bleeding or endometriosis that can keep people from going to work or school, she said.
Kelly also noted that some lawmakers in other states are interested in banning certain types of birth control, and if those restrictions are enacted, then people with menstrual cycle disorders may not be able to use birth control to manage their symptoms.
She said that people who advocate for access to reproductive and sexual health in their daily lives will indirectly help the migrant population.
Those are other issues that we can work on and improve the whole movement, Kelly said.
These international policies, and even national policies, can seem so out of reach, she said. I hope we can begin to look at sexual and reproductive health and rights as a prerequisite or foundational aspect of education for growth, health care, economic empowerment, she added.
Kelly raised a number of questions as examples of potential areas for future legislation.
I meant: What does the supplier demographic look like? Are there enough Latino providers who are able to provide the services needed to ensure that women have access? People should work to make medical school more accessible to the general population, she said.
If you work in a school, are there menstrual products? Is there comprehensive sex education? Is that something you can advocate for? If you work on economic empowerment, women are given maternity leave? Kelly said.
Veronica Cool, a member of the Maryland Latinos Unidos executive board, said there are legislative actions that could be considered.
We have to, as a group, be much more strategic. We have friends in the legislature. I think we need to propose more laws that ensure access. We have to look at the fundamentals, Cool said.
She said she would be interested in seeing legislation requiring a basic statewide standard to ensure broad access to reproductive and sexual health care, such as affordable menstrual pads and nursing accommodations.
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