Socioeconomic Status, Race, And Privilege On Reproductive Freedom In The Hispanic Population
Reproductive freedom is a legal right that gives individuals power over their own bodies. According to the World Health Organization, reproductive rights allow “all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. They also include the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence” (WHO, 2014). The Hispanic population face a variety of barriers that prevent them from receiving high quality health care services and full reproductive freedom such as low socioeconomic status, language, immigration status, and level of acculturation. Though everyone has the right to reproductive freedom, an individual’s race, privilege, and socioeconomic status can affect one’s access to these freedoms and one approach to reproductive freedom will not affect every population the same way.
The health of a society is influenced highly by their economic and social circumstances. Specifically the Hispanic population, they face variety of barriers that prevent them from accessing full reproductive freedom, many of these barriers resulting from low socioeconomic status. On average, the socioeconomic status of Hispanics living in the United States is lower than non-Hispanic whites and is reflected in their family income, education level, occupation, and assets. Statistics from 1999 reflect that 23% of Hispanics lived in poverty, and 56% of Hispanic adults had a high school diploma compared to 88% of non-Hispanic white adults. Hispanics are more likely to work in low paying jobs such as construction, domsestic, agriculture, and food services compared to Caucasians who work in more high paying positions in management, sales, or administrative. The low average income and education level of Hispanics serve as obstacles to receiving high quality health care and full reproductive freedom, since low-income families are less likely to afford the excessive high costs of care, even if they have coverage from health insurance. Low education may make it hard to understand the complicated delivery of the healthcare system, therefore hindering communicaation and understanding with healthcare workers and their instructions (Escarce, 2006). Hispanics’ trend for low income and career choices are associated with their lack of health insurance, making the costs of healthcare services unattainable for many people and is the main barrier to inadequate health care access.
Specific barriers to the Hispanic population that affect their access to full reproductive freedom include immigration status, education level, and lanuage ability. A large majority of Hispanics living in the United States are foreign-born or recent immigrants who value and maintain their cultural beliefs regarding sexual health. Those recently immigrated to the United States suffer from isolation from U.S. society causing them to be unaccustomed to the U.S. healthcare system, which interferes with their ability to obtain appropriate and timely care. In 2000, 28% of Hispanics were citizens with a sizable number of Hispanics being undocumented immigrants. Most foreign-born Hispanics speak only Spanish with only 1/4 report speaking English fluently. With communication being the central process in healthcare service and delivery, incomptency in English affects Hispanics’ ability to obtain and seek health information and has a great effect on patient-provider relationships. Studies have shown that language barriers between patients and health care members result in “excessive ordering of medical tests, lack of understanding of medication side effects and provider instructions, decreased use of primary care, increased use of the emergency department, and inadequate follow-up” (Escarce, 2006). Cultural differences between patients and healthcare memebers add to the many barriers to reproductive freedom as well. Cultural differences confines a patient’s’ ability to recognize “symptoms of diseases, thresholds for seeking care, expectations of care, and the ability to understand prescribed treatments” which ultimately affect Hispanic patients’ motivation and drive to seek care, and the providers’ attentiveness and response to their Hispanic patients.
Barriers in healthcare and full reproductive freedom may stem from the behavior of healthcare members since there is heavy evidence that people have unconscious negative racial stereotypes and attitudes. Healthcare providers are not immune to bias and are often influenced by a patients’ race and ethnicity when it comes to clinical decisions. Data from a sample of U.S. adults found that 30% of Hispanics believe racism is a major problem in healthcare and more than 1/2 of Hispanics believe the health care system treats people unfairly soely based on their ethnicity or race. The 2016 film No Más Bebés captures the expereinces of Mexican immigrant women during the late 1960s and early 1970s, who filed a lawsuit against doctors and the U.S. government after they were sterilized while giving birth at the USC Medical Center. The sterilization had a huge impact on the women’s lives and cultural identity. The sterlizataion left some of the women feeling like they were no longer ‘women’ since they no longer can have children, bringing them to believe their husbands would leave them since child bearing is a prominent role in a wife. Many Hispanic woman at the time were coerced into signing papers they did not understand, mainly believing those papers would help relieve their pain. At the time, there were many rushed labors and signing of tubal ligation by minority woman who didn’t fully understand the meaning and details of the prodecure. Family planning in the ’70s was on the rise, and many minority women felt victim to population control leading to problems surrounding coerced sterilization.
The barriers faced by the Hispanic population stop them from receiving high grade health care services and full reproductive freedom, and ultimately have deep-rooted effects on a Hispanic patients’ decision to seek care. Approaches to reproductive freedom will not affect every population the same way because every population is different, coming from different backgrounds, cultures, and barriers. Though everyone has the right to reproductive freedom, the barriers faced by the Hispanic population prove that an individual’s socioeconomic status, priveledge, and race can affect that individual’s access to these rights.
- World Health Education. (2014, November 28). Gender and human rights. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/gender_rights/sexual_health/en/
- Escarce, J. J. (2006, January 01). Access to and Quality of Health Care. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19910/
- Espino, V. (2016). No Más Bebés. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/films/no-mas-bebes/
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