Latinas are Watching in Arizona
Arizona is simply overflowing with ideas about keeping Latinos in check. First, it was SB 1070 — a broad and strict anti-undocumented immigration measure that caused Latinos all over the United States to stand up in protest. Then Arizona banned ethnic studies classes in public schools, which eventually gave the Tucson school board the green light to ban their Mexican-American studies programs. And now? Now we learn that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has signed House Bill 2800, a bill banning state funding for Planned Parenthood health centers in the state, called the Whole Woman’s Health Priorities Act. The result? Arizona will significantly reduce access to affordable health care for Latinas living in the Grand Canyon State.
Latinos make up 30 percent of Arizona’s population — a total of 1.9 million people. Twenty-eight percent of them are uninsured. While Gov. Jan Brewer argues that House Bill 2800 is necessary to make sure that no taxpayer money is funding abortions, elected officials, more than anyone else, should know that taxpayer money is very strictly monitored and cannot legally fund abortions. The only result of this bill will be that hundreds of Latinos will lose access to the basic health care that they need. The people most affected by this bill are the people that need affordable health care the most.
While I was in Texas last month fighting for the Women’s Health Program (the battle in Texas still continues), I met many promotores — community health educators — who were extremely concerned about the 130,000 low-income women who would lose access to affordable health care because of Gov. Rick Perry’s attacks against Planned Parenthood. I met Angela*, a middle-aged promotora who tried very hard not to cry as she told me of the women she encounters every day when she goes out to the colonias, the rural parts of town. She told me of a particular woman she managed to get to a Planned Parenthood health center after visiting her at home a few times. The woman hadn’t been to a doctor in 10 years, but with Angela’s help and guidance, she finally felt comfortable getting a checkup. A week after the results came in from the woman’s exam, she found out that she had full-blown cervical cancer. Angela did not tell me the rest of the story. She didn’t have to.
Elected officials in Arizona have followed in Texas’ misguided footsteps. They have vowed to put women’s health and lives at risk just to make a political point. What is even more disturbing to me is that Mitt Romney, if elected president, would construct an America very similar to — if not worse than — today’s Arizona and Texas. It would be an unhealthy America, and one that is not friendly to women or Latinos.
Unlike what the GOP may think of the “War on Women,” Latinas in Arizona are not imaginary: we are very real and we are watching Gov. Brewer’s every attack on our communities. Latinos make up nearly 20 percent of eligible voters in Arizona, and in November we will be ready to send a strong message to all of those who stand not for good politics or fiscally responsible measures, but for vendettas and attacks on women’s health. In November, actions will speak louder than words.