By Orquidia Torres, MD
As a Black Latina woman, I understand the difficulties that women of color, especially Latinas, have accessing safe and appropriate reproductive health care. I especially understand this as a provider of reproductive health care to adolescents. The first time contraception was discussed with me by a medical provider was after I had already given birth. While I was overjoyed with the addition to my family and made accommodations accordingly, not every woman has the resources and family support if she were to face an unintended pregnancy.
Although pregnancy rates have declined, Latina adolescents are twice as likely to give birth compared to white non-Latina adolescents.
In addition, Latina adolescents are 1.5 times more likely to have a repeat birth before the age of 20. Part of the reason behind this is that Latina adolescents have lower rates of contraceptive use due to cost, lack of insurance, and lack of access to family planning services. These health disparities subsequently affect Latina maternal and child health. The Affordable Care Act has helped decrease some limitations of health insurance, such as copays, but obtaining contraceptive access is not the only issue.
We, as a society, need to empower and support Latina women so that they can make safe reproductive health decisions for themselves.
For the Latina who is stuck in an abusive relationship and made to feel worthless, how can they feel empowered? For the Latina with limited English, how are they empowered in a doctor’s visit? For the adolescent who doesn’t have access to confidential care and feels there are limited options, how can they feel empowered?
As a Latina provider who cares for Latina patients, I know firsthand that empowering Latinas through reproductive health care makes a difference.
While speaking to one of my Latina patients, I learned that she was afraid to start contraception because she needed confidential services and didn’t know about her options and privacy protections. After explaining her right to confidential reproductive care and her autonomy in the decision making process, she was empowered to start long acting reversible contraception.
If I can empower my Latina patients with the short time I have with them, think of the good that would come if all health educators, policy makers, and medical providers acknowledged and acted upon the need for reproductive justice for Latinas.
Orquidia Torres is a pediatrician and adolescent medicine fellow in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. She focuses on adolescent sexual and reproductive health including providing long acting reversible contraception. She is a graduate of the Physicians for Reproductive Health Leadership Training Academy and is passionate about advocating for her patients at community and national levels.
This post was originally published by National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health as a part of their 7th Annual Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice. The original post can be read here.