Less is more for the Republican Party when it comes to women’s reproductive rights. Conservative Republican women may fully support the strategy of curtailing such healthcare access but the rest of the female electorate does not take kindly to such an approach. Neither do Latinas. Ninety-five percent of Latinas believe women should have easy access to contraception. The GOP’s culture war is not only alienating Latinas, but in turn, they are also alienating the families that are politically guided by mama.
In Latino households it is not uncommon to have the grandparents, parents, kids, and even grandkids all under the same roof. And amidst this potential familial chaos the Latina mom brings order to it all as the nucleus of the family. So if mom can bring order to chaos on the family front, why not on the political front? Well, focus group research has actually found this to be the case, that Latina moms are a key political organizational force within their households and communities. In the current political context that means Latinas are not only opposing limitations to women’s healthcare access but also mobilizing the rest of the family against it.
At the national level the Republican Party has entrenched itself against the President’s healthcare reform mandate calling for the provision of free birth control. At the state level, Republicans have been putting forward measures to chip away at a women’s access to healthcare principally through funding cuts to Planned Parenthood. Routine gynecological exams, breast cancer screenings, and general health and wellness checks that were once provided by Planned Parenthood at low cost are now scarce.
At first sight it would seem that Latinos would be supportive of such measures because of the overwhelming rates of Catholicism, but that’s not true. While Latinos are indeed very Catholic, their faith does not tend to influence their political views. An impreMedia-Latino Decisions survey from late last year showed that for 57 percent of Latinos religion would have no impact at all on their vote in the 2012 election.
The separation between religion and politics explains why the conventional wisdom that Latinos are social conservatives is unfounded. According to the Latino National Survey, the most recent comprehensive study of Latino political attitudes, 80 percent of Latinos either agree or strongly agree that women should have easy access to contraception. Conservative Latinos, Catholic Latinos, Foreign born Latinos, any way you slice the Latino community, the vast majority supports greater access to contraception.
Latinas have the highest birth rates and their families are in the lowest income brackets. These demographic and financial realities make the provision of low cost family planning critical to Latinos. For Latinos affordable women’s healthcare has short and long-term benefits. In the short-term, scarce resources that would be used for family planning can be used for more immediate needs such as obtaining nutritious food and medicines for the family. And in the long-term, family planning will allow Latino parents to make greater and more substantial investments in the educational future of their children.
For Latinas part of providing a future for their children and their family is seeing a political landscape that allows for this wellbeing. In the lead up to the 2012 presidential election the GOP continues to provide the Latino community reasons to mobilize against its policies. In the realm of women’s health, the Republican Party has once again come down on the wrong side of Latino policy preferences. More specifically, the strong preference of Latinas for easy access to contraception has been ignored. The culture war will only provide an effective mobilizing cause for the Latina herself but also for the family troops she leads.
Victoria Defrancesco Soto