The representation gap – even more significant for women of color – poses a huge barrier to ensuring policies that support state-level abortion access WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 28, 2023 – In a newly released report, Democracy & Abortion...
Largest Group of Women of Color Living Under Bans
By Katherine Gallagher Robbins, Candace Gibson and Shaina Goodman
More than a year later, the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has and is continuing to harm millions of people across the nation, impeding their access to abortion, disrupting their economic futures, and putting their health and even their lives at risk. The impact of this decision is particularly harmful for women of color, who are less likely to have insurance and face greater economic barriers to accessing abortion.
The Dobbs decision has unique impacts on Latina communities.As this analysis demonstrates, the Latinx community is a diverse group. In this analysis, people are identified as Latinx if they select being of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin. Due to data limitations, this analysis does not include people who do not identify as women but may become pregnant, including transgender men and nonbinary people (see Robbins and Goodman for additional discussion). In this case, where all respondents identify as women, we use the term Latina throughout. However, The Latina Institute and the National Partnership, conscious of the importance of the full range of gender identities, utilizes gender-neutral terms throughout its materials whenever possible. “Latina/x” is a term that challenges the gender binary in the Spanish language and embraces the diversity of genders that often are actively erased from spaces. To understand these impacts, it is critical to understand that the term “Latina” reflects people with a diverse array of histories, cultures, languages, countries of origin, and socioeconomic conditions. Given this diversity, it’s important to recognize that the health care experiences of Latinas are also, of course, not a monolith. As a result of the various and intersecting identities that Latinas hold, they often face compounding barriers to health care – from low rates of insurance coverage, to mistrust of medical providers due to the legacy of forced sterilization or other coercive practices, to anti-immigrant sentiment and discrimination in health care systems and public health policies, to lack of linguistically and culturally appropriate services.
These same barriers – which vary across Latina communities – undermine access to abortion care, and have only been exacerbated by abortion bans that have been or are likely to be enacted in the wake of the Dobbs ruling.
New analysis from the National Partnership for Women & Families and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice reveals the harmful impact of Dobbs on Latinas. We find that:
- Nearly 6.7 million Latinas – 43 percent of all Latinas ages 15-49While people of many ages can become pregnant, in this analysis we use ages 15-49 to align with the Guttmacher Institute, the World Health Organization, and others. Not all women of reproductive age have the potential to become pregnant – many of them may not be able to for medical reasons or they may not participate in sexual activities that could result in pregnancy. – live in the 26 states that have banned or are likely to ban abortion. They represent the largest group of women of color impacted by current or likely state bans.
- Nearly half of all Latinas who live in these 26 states are already mothers,This analysis defines “mother” as having at least one own child (including step, adopted, or biological) under the age of 18 in the household. Due to data limitations, there are mothers who are not included in this definition, including those who have non-resident or older children or those whose children have passed away. including 852,800 mothers of children under the age of three. Research shows that when mothers cannot access abortion care, the economic security and development of their existing children are negatively impacted.
- More than 3 million Latinas living in these states are economically insecure.While people across the income spectrum may have difficulty making ends meet, in this analysis we define “economically insecure” as living in a family below 200 percent of the federal poverty line. Women with low incomes are especially impacted by state bans as they are more likely to lack access to the necessary funds to travel to another state for abortion care. Furthermore, women who are denied abortion care are significantly more likely to be pushed deeper into poverty as a result.
- Close to half of all Latina veterans in the U.S. live in states that have or are very likely to ban abortion after Dobbs. While the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) has acted to expand access to abortion care, not all veterans are eligible for or utilize VA health care.
- Nearly 43 percent of disabled LatinasOverall, the disability community has reclaimed identity-first language (i.e., “disabled”) to acknowledge disability as a critical part of identity in which to take pride. However, not all members of the disability community prefer identity-first language. Others may prefer person-first language (i.e., “person with a disability”). Preferences may also vary by disability. This report uses identity-first and person-first language interchangeably. However, the authors will always honor the language a disabled person chooses for themselves. People are identified as disabled in this analysis if they responded that they have difficulty in one or more of the following realms: vision, hearing, cognitive, ambulatory, self care, and independent living. This is a limited definition of disability that excludes a portion of disabled people. For more information on how disability is measured in the American Community Survey please see How Disability Data are Collected from The American Community Survey. live in these 26 states. Disabled people already face barriers and discrimination in accessing health and abortion care, but disabled people of color face additional and unique barriers based on the intersection of their identities. These barriers are worsened by stereotypes and stigma regarding the sexuality of people with disabilities. Dobbs has compounded these problems by adding additional costs and accessibility barriers to accessing care.
- More than 1 million Latinas who live in states that have or are likely to ban abortions report not speaking English at all or not speaking it well.Among respondents who report not speaking English or not speaking it well, the vast majority (more than 99 percent) speak Spanish; less than one percent speak either Portuguese or a Native language. This language barrier creates substantial challenges to accessing and receiving culturally competent abortion care.
- Latinas of all racial groups are impacted by the Dobbs ruling, including:
- 108,900 Black Latinas
- 75,300 Native Latinas
- 20,500 Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander Latinas
- 1.3 million Latinas who identify as another race; and
- 1.5 million multiracial Latinas.
The actions of certain states are especially harmful for Latinas and their families. We find that Latinas in three states – Florida, Texas, and Arizona – account for nearly three-quarters of the Latinas in ban states and nearly one-third of all Latinas of reproductive age in the nation.
- Texas is home to 2.9 million Latinas of reproductive age – 19 percent of all Latinas of reproductive age in the country and 44 percent of Latinas who live in these 26 states. Of these Latinas, 1.4 million are mothers, including 383,100 mothers of children under three, 1.3 million are economically insecure, 21,300 are veterans and 177,700 are disabled. They are all harmed by Texas’s draconian abortion ban, which prevents abortions at all stages of pregnancy except for life-threatening medical emergencies.
- Florida is home to 1.4 million Latinas of reproductive age – 9 percent of all Latinas of reproductive age in the country and 21 percent of Latinas who live in these 26 states. Of these Latinas, 594,600 are mothers, including 145,900 mothers of children under three, 558,000 are economically insecure, 9,100 are veterans and 75,000 are disabled. All of these women are harmed by Florida’s harmful abortion laws, which ban virtually all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, including those resulting from rape, incest or human trafficking.
- Arizona is home to 585,600 Latinas of reproductive age – 4 percent of all Latinas of reproductive age in the country and 9 percent of Latinas who live in these 26 states. Of these Latinas, 270,100 are mothers, including 78,000 mothers of children under three, 262,200 are economically insecure, 4,400 are veterans and 39,900 are disabled. They are harmed by Arizona’s multiple abortion bans, including a near total ban that forced clinic closures. That ban has been temporarily blocked by a court order, so abortion is currently legal in the state up to 15 weeks but prohibited thereafter. While these laws are actively litigated, the back-and-forth regarding when abortions can be performed in the state has caused confusion and chaos both for providers and for patients.
How Latinas will be impacted by these bans is, of course, shaped by more than just their address. For example, given the increased economic resources required to access abortions in many communities post-Dobbs, Latinas in these 26 states who face large wage gaps are particularly likely to be harmed. In fact, Latinas have one of the largest wage gaps among women, paid just 52 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. This is, in part, because Latinas are over-represented in low-wage service occupations, such as servers and cleaners. Our research shows that more than 1.4 million Latinas in the 26 states surveyed work in service occupations.Service occupations are those defined by IPUMS. These same jobs are less likely to provide access to supports that are necessary both to access abortion care and to achieve economic security, including paid sick days and flexible scheduling.
Abortion bans also increase the threats of criminalization facing many Latinx communities. Anti-immigrant laws and policing of immigrant and Latinx people are especially prevalent in many of the same 26 states that have banned or are likely to ban abortion. These policies, coupled with heightened surveillance of people attempting to access abortion care, can make traveling out of state especially precarious or even impossible for Latinas, especially those at risk of deportation, detention, and family separation. Even for Latinas who are U.S. citizens or have documentation, the climate of fear can impose significant barriers to care. Notably, we find that 38 percent of all Latinas living in the 26 states that have banned or are likely to ban abortion were born outside of the U.S.People born in U.S. territories and possessions are born in the U.S. – this group includes people with varying citizenship statuses, among whom fear of surveillance may be particularly prevalent.
The harms of abortion bans are exacerbated by rampant disinformation targeting Latinx communities, evidenced by messages conveyed in Spanish and featuring images of Black and brown people. These false claims include incorrect information about the legality of abortion, as well as medically inaccurate claims about the health implications of abortions. This onslaught of disinformation further undermines trust between Latinas and health care providers and exacerbates inequities in reproductive health outcomes and in abortion access.
The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice has created the Latina/x Reproductive Justice Solidarity Pledge, a call to elected officials and decision-makers that bodily autonomy is critical for Latina/x communities. Latinx leaders at the National Hispanic Leadership Association have developed the 2020-2024 Hispanic Public Policy Agenda addressing the needs of our communities to thrive, from inclusive language to the right to quality health care, including abortion care. Now is the time to follow these leaders and support their call for bodily autonomy and access to abortion care for all.
Methodological note: This analysis uses the 2017-2021 American Community Survey accessed via IPUMS USA, University of Minnesota, www.ipums.org. We use a five-year dataset to have a sufficient sample size to analyze state-level data.
The authors would like to thank Ann Marie Benitez, Natalie Carlier, Marissa Ditkowsky, Mettabel Law, Llenda Jackson-Leslie, Josia Klein, Anwesha Majumder and Yamila Ruiz for their contributions.