Earlier this month, a federal judge approved the Obama Administration’s decision to stop blocking a court order that would make the morning-after pill available over-the-counter to all women and girls. Women of all ages will soon have access without a prescription.
U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman said that the administration’s reversal was due to the efforts of women’s rights groups.
Some organizations believe this is a particularly important victory for Latinas and immigrants.
“Planned Parenthood is delighted by the decision. We’ve been advocating for years to make sure that this very important medication be available without barriers. This is a step forward for all women, for Latinas, especially young Latinas since they disproportionally experience unintended pregnancy,” says Leslie Kantor, vice president of education for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Though a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the teen Hispanic birth rate plunged at least 40 percent in 22 states, Latina teen pregnancy rates continue to be much higher than those for blacks and whites in most of the states with the largest Hispanic populations. Latinas also face an array of barriers when it comes to contraception.
“Latina women are less likely to be insured,” says Kantor. “Having it over-the-counter makes it more accessible rather than having to go through a doctor or insurance.”
“We knew it was a long overdue victory and were pleased that they allowed science and common sense to prevail. We’re committed to see this through the end. When emergency contraception is on store shelves next to the condoms where it belongs, it will make it that much easier for young Latinas and immigrant women without an ID,” says Kimberly Inez McGuire, associate director of government relations and public affairs at The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.
The recent ruling, however, applies only to Plan B, the brand-name, one-pill version of the emergency contraception product, not the less expensive, two-pill versions.
“We know that Latinas face many barriers, so we need to make methods as accessible as possible. It’s not enough to have the product on the shelf,” she says.
Kantor believes that although the ruling is a significant achievement, there is still a lot of work to do to ensure the reproductive health of these populations.
Planned Parenthood, Kantor says, is trying to dispel myths or confusion when it comes to the morning after pill.“First and foremost we have to make sure that young people have access to good sex ed,” she says. “We want to make sure that people understand how emergency contraception works. It’s important that people understand that it won’t do anything if someone is already pregnant.”
Some conservative groups believe the emergency contraception pill causes abortion. But Plan B, when taken within 72 hours of having sexual intercourse, postpones ovulation and prevents sperm from coming in contact with and fertilizing an egg.
In addition to all of the recent measures, Kantor believes it’s important to keep a watchful eye on the Affordable Care Act to make sure all the benefits that were promised get implemented. She also feels it’s critical to provide the proper information to Latinos to get them signed up, as well as provide services to the undocumented.
The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health also plans to be vigilant when it comes to the reproductive health of Latinas. “We’ll be watching closely and advocating for more affordable contraception options,” McGuire says. “This is a major win for Latinas, but we have a long way to go.”
Erika L. Sánchez is a poet and writer living in Chicago. She is currently the sex and love advice columnist for Cosmopolitan for Latinas and a contributor for The Huffington Post and other publications. She is a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship and the 2013 “Discovery”/Boston Review poetry prize. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, or www.erikalsanchez.com