Texas Representatives Mary González (House District 75) and Justin Rodriguez (House District 125) are serving their first terms in the Texas Legislature.

Texas Representatives Mary González (House District 75) and Justin Rodriguez (House District 125) are serving their first terms in the Texas Legislature.

Op-Ed: Why the Latino community should care about reproductive health

As colleagues and legislators, we have been discussing the current status and future of reproductive health care in Texas. Recent political discourse has prompted us to reignite a community conversation in hopes of raising some awareness about the intersections of race, class, and gender when it comes to health care.

There are plenty of setbacks already facing Latinos when it comes to health care. Latinos make up more than one out of every two uninsured people in Texas and about 30 percent of the uninsured nationwide.

Overwhelming evidence continues to prove that Latinas are bearing the brunt of the damage when our leaders fail to address women’s health issues.  Funding and awareness for programs that would improve the health of our mothers, sisters, and daughters has continued to be put off. However, we cannot stress enough the importance of addressing it now more than ever. Here in Texas, Latinas continue to suffer from the 67 percent cut in the state’s family planning budget in 2011. Other programs– like the Women’s Health Program– remain at a standstill while the state searches for enough providers for the over 130,000 low-income, uninsured individuals enrolled in the program.

Republicans have worked hard to make abortion and family planning synonymous with each other — something that isn’t true and which we need to work to undo. This is about the health of our families and children. Latino legislators should be working their hardest to change the conversation.

Latinas have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. When it comes to diseases like cervical cancer, Latinas also have the highest incidence among all racial and ethnic groups, as well as the second highest mortality rate in the nation. Many strains of HPV cause cervical cancer, which can easily be treated if caught early. However, with rapid closures of Texas family planning clinics during the past several years, we’ve seen a rise in sexually transmitted diseases as well — another negative impact on our community.

Despite all of these facts that demonstrate the impact on our community, there are still some who question whether reproductive health should be incorporated as part of a larger Latino political agenda. Our community will continue to be at the forefront of this damage if we avoid addressing these issues. We must converse with our Latino legislators and leaders about the negative impact the lack of preventative care for reproductive health has had on individuals and our community.

The facts are that Latinos will suffer significantly from inaction. We must engage our friends, family, and community because we cannot ignore these issues any longer. The time for Latinos to care about reproductive health is now.

We invite you to look at the following statistics and share with those around you to further engage and bring awareness to our community:

Nation-wide:

  • Nearly one in three people uninsured in the U.S. is Hispanic (30.1 percent of Hispanics)
  • Uninsured rates are substantially higher among non-citizen Latinos

In Texas:

  • 37 percent of Texans are uninsured
  • Texas women have the third-highest rate of cervical cancer in the country
  • The incidence of cervical cancer is approximately 19 percent higher in Texas than the national average
  • For Latinas the rate of cervical cancer incidence in Texas is 11 percent higher than the national average for Latinas
  • In Texas, Latinas are nearly 36 percent more likely to die of cervical cancer than their white counterparts
  • Latinas in Texas are nearly 26 percent more likely to die of cervical cancer compared to Latinas nationally

Texas Representatives Mary González (House District 75) and Justin Rodriguez (House District 125) are serving their first terms in the Texas Legislature.  The 83rd Texas Legislature began on January 8th and convenes for 140 days.

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