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Latinos and the GOP War on Women

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Last week on the House floor, Congressman Gutierrez (D-IL) dedicated five minutes to railing against Mitt Romney and the GOP's War on Women. When asked to respond to claims that Sandra Fluke is a "slut" and "whore", the only thing Romney could say was, "It's not the language I would have used." So Mitt Romney would have used different words to agree with the same basic sentiments--which he effectively does.

It's kind of like every time Romney says he wants immigrants to "self deport." What he really means is that he supports tearing apart Latino families via mass deportations of undocumented immigrants. You see, it's a rhetorical device: he uses innocuous discourse to massage his repulsive and repugnant beliefs into the public conversation.

Texas, Arizona, Virginia and even Ohio are all states with increasingly high concentrations of Latino constituents, and all have utilized stigma as a tool in their collective march to pass emotionally and physically invasive laws against the personal sovereignty of America's women. These laws carry the express intent to undermine constitutionally protected personal freedoms and rights, and as such, ought to be seen for what they are: an assault on women's democratic enfranchisement.

So Congressman Gutierrez was right to call out Mitt Romney. What I want to know is where is the public outcry from the rest of our nation's Latino leadership? Texas and Arizona have 37% and 30% Latino populations respectively, and Virginia is inching ever closer to the 1 in 10 mark. There are +50 million of us who live in the U.S., but it takes people like Melissa Blanco Borelli--writing from the U.K.--to get an erudite Latina response.

Y por qué?

Mira, these attacks are fundamentally about women's--which clearly includes Latinas'--freedom and appropriate access to reproductive health care. For example, research indicates that oral contraception decreases both ovarian cancer rates and death. According to the data, a woman who uses birth control for 15 years or more is nearly 60% less likely to develop ovarian cancer. Even if a woman uses oral contraception for only 1-4 years, her risk decreases by nearly one fifth!

At the time of this study, 200,000 lives had been saved globally because oral contraception was available to the people who needed it. Don't read that as an abstract number. Those are 200,000 mothers, daughters, siblings and friends. Those people are our colleagues, and for those of us who teach, they are our students. Son 200,000 miembros de nuestra gente, none of whom would have been present in our lives had they lacked appropriate access to modern medicine in order to save their lives.

On its face this is a Latina (and Latino!) issue. According to the CDC, Latina women have the second highest rate of incidence as regards ovarian cancer. And out of all demographics, Latinas have the third highest death rate from ovarian cancer. One can't say this isn't about women's health. Politicians need to stop selling ideology. As a sociologist, I want numbers!

By the numbers, this can only be seen as a GOP driven War on Women. It is a miserable and blatant attack on women's sovereignty, which must include the ability to make intimate decisions about one's body and ones health in ways that are free of coercion from other people and/or institutions: including government.

Taking this one step further, and making the political personal to me, this is an overt attack on my intimate family structure. I'm married to an exceptionally intelligent person who is both a powerful woman and a talented artist. Like me, she cares deeply about these issues. So early in our relationship we began an honest, respectful and constructive conversation, which has lasted years. This dialogue has ranged from all things contraception to abortion, and no, we don't always agree. But we're adults, and this is what adults do. We discuss the big issues and make decisions about the things that profoundly affect our life chances.

More so, this is what families do. And my family feels the government's role--being "of the people"--is to provide appropriate options to citizens so that we can make informed decisions that best suit our very personal circumstances. Apparently, I'm not alone in my perspective. According to Dr. Manzano and her colleagues, "Over 80% of Latinos in all cases agree or strongly agree" that women should have easy access to birth control. It is not the government's role to strip away options or to make those choices for us, particularly when there is no medical basis for doing so.

Further, if for whatever reason, my wife and I found it necessary to get an abortion, it makes us absolutely irate to know that depending on where we live, some state governments think it's appropriate to force her to submit to an invasive, transvaginal ultrasound, which--let's face it--is a vile, coercive mechanism of intimidating people into changing their minds. If you want to talk about the actual long reach of government into our personal lives, it doesn't get much longer--or more personal--than eight inches inside your (or your partner's) vagina.

As a community, we are beginning to stand up to the GOP assault on our families via their hyper-racialized "self deportation" policies. We need also to begin to vocalize on the other issues that directly affect our families' well being. Let's start by defending the constitutionally protected, democratic sovereignty of women.