Writer Nydia Simone of Blactina Media never thought she'd have to prioritize access to reproductive healthcare this election cycle. "As a [New York] voter and a citizen, Roe v. Wade being overturned takes my confidence away from the Supreme Court and makes me want to focus more on local elections," Simone tells POPSUGAR. "I want to support candidates who prioritize women's reproductive health in a way I didn't think about before." And she's not alone. For the first time ever, abortion rights are a top five voter concern for Latinxs in the United States. In fact, according to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll published last month, Latinxs ranked abortion as their second-biggest concern after rising prices.
This might seem surprising considering that Catholicism tends to be high among Latinx communities and is thought to factor in voter behavior. But in reality, the population of US Latinxs that identifies as Catholic has been in decline over the last 20 years. Only 50 percent of US Latinxs identified as Catholic in 2020, down from 57 percent in 2009. A 2020 Guttmacher Institute analysis found that 24 percent of women who obtained abortions in 2014 identified as Catholic. In addition to that, 25 percent of US Catholic women use sterilization, 15 percent use long-acting reversible contraceptives (such as IUDs), and 25 percent use hormonal methods like birth-control pills. Federal government data from 2012 found that by their early 20s, 89 percent of never-married Catholic women had had sex, and virtually all of them were using some form of contraception. Catholic women are having abortions and using contraceptive services, meaning they understand the dangerous ramifications of not having access to them.
"This is a crime against women in removing the autonomy of our own bodies."
Kristin Polanco, a Catholic registered nurse and single mother, says she's afraid of what the post-Roe future will mean for her as well as her patients. "Abortion rights are extremely important in this upcoming election. I feel like it was felt countrywide when Roe v. Wade got revoked. What happens if I have an unplanned pregnancy? What if I am raped again and I happen to get pregnant?" she says. "This is a crime against women in removing the autonomy of our own bodies. If a candidate is pro-life or has had any history of being pro-life, it will be an automatic no for me in terms of voting for them. It would break my heart if I ever had a patient come in with complications after performing an at-home abortion."
Of course, Latinxs are not a monolith, and their attitudes vary greatly by region, socioeconomic status, and ethnic background, just like for any other issue. Evangelical Latinxs are a growing group and are more likely to align with antiabortion rhetoric. But for many, it seems that until now, women's reproductive health has been more of an abstract concept. Even as conservatives incrementally gutted access to abortions all over the country, it's obvious American women had a false sense of security assuming that "it would never happen" and that abortions would still be available in cases of medical emergencies, rape, and incest.
The idea that Latinxs are predictable, culturally conservative voters because they come from Latin American countries isn't holding up anymore. According to a 2021 Pew Research report, 81 percent of Latinxs living in the United States were US citizens, 72 percent of all Latinxs ages 5 and older speak English proficiently, and 93 percent of Latinx children living in the US were born in the US. Recent polls have shown that Latinx communities living in the states are not as conservative when it comes to the issue of abortion as politicians have long assumed. So, the question becomes: when will Democrats use this insight? Latinx voters have all the same concerns European-American, Black (non-Latinxs), Asian (non-Latinxs), and Indigenous (non-Latinxs) voters have in this time of economic and social unrest — the rising cost of living, inflation, jobs, crime, gun violence, the economy, and healthcare.
Every campaign season, the 34.5 million voters who identify as Latinxs are systematically ignored by both Republicans and Democrats. In fact, the only time Latinxs are acknowledged in political discussions and debates is either in exclusionary conversations about immigration or in conservative rantings about immigrants as a proxy for xenophobia and white replacement theory. Time and time again, immigration policy is used to frame all Latinxs as invaders in order to stoke division and fear of Black and Brown citizens with Latin American ancestry.
Vanessa Cárdenas, executive director of America's Voice, an organization with the mission "to build the public support and the political will needed to enact policy changes that secure freedom and opportunity for immigrants in America," calls this a "desperate and concerted effort to try to change the subject of this year's midterms."
"Republicans don't want to talk about abortion, access to guns, or failing gas prices. They don't want to talk about their attacks on LGBTQ families or the fact that they opposed the Inflation and Reduction Bill. They want Americans to talk about immigration because they feel it's the issue that's going to mobilize their base," she said in a virtual forum to discuss immigration.
Around 76 percent of Latinxs don't believe abortion should be made illegal. Abortion rights will inevitably impact immigrant and undocumented women — particularly Black, Brown, Indigenous, LGBTQ+, and nonbinary people who face sexual violence at higher rates. LGBTQ+ folks are nearly four times more likely than non-LGBTQ+ people to experience violent victimization, including rape, sexual assault, and aggravated or simple assault, according to a 2020 Williams Institute study. It's even more difficult for Black and Brown trans immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.
"A large number of us protesting Roe v. Wade were LGBTQ folks. You could see the trans flag being a part of the protest, you can see trans and nonbinary individuals."
"A large number of us protesting Roe v. Wade were LGBTQ folks. You could see the trans flag being a part of the protest, you can see trans and nonbinary individuals," says Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement activist Jennicet Gutiérrez. She believes that the issue of abortion is showing the true colors of Democratic leaders who have been lukewarm in their efforts to protect abortion access — among other fumbles, she says, like the handling of student loan debt, gas prices, and inflation relief, that show just how out of touch they really are with everyday Americans.
"We have Democrats controlling most of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and the president is a Democrat also," Gutiérrez says. "If they're not utilizing that power and muscle to really say where we stand on these issues, I don't know what their strategy is or what they are thinking.
"That is expected from the opposition. They don't have to play it safe, they always go super aggressive on abortion and other issues — there's no surprise there. But for the Democrats to pretend to be 'progressive' and for 'women's rights' and for some of them to not support abortion? It is a shame and it's hurtful and heartbreaking that we, once again, are having to fight this issue." Latinxs will have significant voting power in this and every other US election moving forward, so it's important to remember that we get to determine what our society looks like. But we need to be open to reimagining power and our relationship to it. We all want the prices of gas, food, rent, and everything else to go down. We all would like affordable housing and compassionate, accessible healthcare. We must think critically about any system that asks us to close our eyes to all other possibilities and trust blindly in something that does not yield the type of results we want.