The Crucial Next Step: Access to Health Care for Immigrant Women and Families
(PRESS RELEASE) Last night’s executive action on immigration by President Barack Obama will protect up to 5 million immigrants, many of them women, from deportation and allow them to receive work authorization.
But the administrative relief will not ensure access to health insurance coverage for the same individuals under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and other government programs—leaving many without affordable access to health care critical to their ability to participate in and contribute fully to U.S. society.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“This crucial step forward on immigration should be celebrated, but must be followed by additional action to ensure immigrant women’s access to a full range of affordable reproductive and other health care.
“Immigration status should never determine a woman’s ability to get the health care she needs.
“We applaud President Obama for taking bold action to ensure millions of immigrants are free from the constant threat of being wrenched from their families, their homes, and their communities.
“We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to address the very real discrimination immigrant women face in our health care system, and to advance policies that guarantee health care for all women in the U.S.”
The U.S. has come under fire recently for failing to ensure adequate and affordable health care—including reproductive health care—to its immigrant population. In March 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that the exclusion of large categories of immigrants from public insurance coverage and tax credits under the Affordable Care Act violated U.S. treaty obligations to prevent gender discrimination in health care. In August 2014, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) echoed the recommendation that the U.S. remove barriers to affordable health care for immigrants because of the harm such policies cause in driving racial and gender disparities in reproductive health care.
The very real impact of immigrant women’s inability to access health care is also the focus of a groundbreaking report—Nuestra Voz, Nuestra Salud, Nuestro Texas: The Fight for Women’s Reproductive Health in the Rio Grande Valley—led by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH). The report documented the devastating human toll on Latinas and their families in the Rio Grande Valley community in the wake of Texas’s 2011 policy decisions to slash the state’s family planning budget by two-thirds and bar any health centers even affiliated with facilities that provide abortion services from receiving any state family planning funding. These policy decisions took an especially deep toll on immigrant women in Texas, who are barred from eligibility for government health insurance due to their immigration status and must rely on state-funded family planning clinics for basic reproductive health care.