UCLA LPPI Centers Latinas in the Struggle for Reproductive Freedoms Following the Overturning of Roe v. Wade
By Alise Brillault
The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute (UCLA LPPI) elevates research that applies a Latina lens on emerging political issues and aims to be nimble in responding to the evolving needs of the nation’s growing and diverse Latino community. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and recent attacks on reproductive freedoms, UCLA LPPI brought together its research, mobilization and leadership capacities to advocate for a Latina-centered response.
UCLA LPPI recognizes that America’s future is Latina. By 2050, Latinas will represent 13% of the U.S. population, 11% of the labor force and have a median age 11 years younger than non-Hispanic white women. Yet too often, Latinas are left out of policy conversations, and they experience significant inequity that places them among our nation’s most vulnerable.
Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, UCLA LPPI has conducted rigorous research to put a spotlight on the challenges Latinas have faced – including exiting the workforce at higher rates than any other group and struggling to keep their businesses afloat as entrepreneurs in sectors like hospitality.
These challenges have now been compounded by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. By ending federal protections for abortion rights, Latinas have not only been deprived of their bodily autonomy – their economic security and ability to make choices about their lives is also undermined.
In response, UCLA LPPI has supported emerging Latina scholars through its policy fellowship program to pursue new research to help quantify the impacts of the Dobbs decision on Latinas. That investigation was recently published in UCLA LPPI’s newest report, “Differential Rights: How Abortion Bans Impact Latinas in Their Childbearing Years.”
The policy fellows leading this important research initiative included Josefina Flores Morales, who recently completed her PhD in sociology from UCLA, and Julia Hernandez Nierenberg, a master of social work and master of public policy candidate at UCLA.
“UCLA LPPI is committed to creating pathways for rising scholars to publish applied research and inform policy,” explained the organization’s research director, Silvia González. “It was an incredible opportunity to support Josefina and Julia as they led this project and defined the analytical approach, conducted the research and proposed thoughtful policy recommendations.”
The report was also an opportunity for Flores Morales and Hernandez Nierenberg to receive guidance from UCLA LPPI’s partners at Arizona State University’s Center for Latinas/os and American Politics Research (ASU CLAPR). In addition to obtaining data insights and research support from ASU CLAPR’s Dr. Francisco Pedraza, the report was reviewed by Dr. Rocío R. García and Dr. Kenicia Wright, two women of color faculty members at ASU.
“We were able to work with external reviewers at ASU to get an expert perspective outside of UCLA LPPI that gave us insights from people who have been doing gender, policy and reproductive rights work for many years,” Flores Morales said.
“This was my first time working on a report with external reviewers, and collaborating with Dr. Rocio Garcia and Dr. Kenicia Wright was an honor and privilege,” Hernandez Nierenberg added. “They were both excited and supportive of this project and provided thoughtful feedback for Josefina and me.”
UCLA LPPI has also mobilized community members through expert convenings featuring perspectives from Latina leaders in the reproductive justice space. On August 31st, UCLA LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz led a national webinar alongside moderator Astrid Galván of Axios and panelists Olivia Julianna from Gen-Z for Change; Lupe Rodríguez from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice; América Ramírez of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity Reproductive Rights; and Cathy Torres of Frontera Fund.
This webinar event brought together Latina leaders at the forefront of the reproductive justice movement to discuss the impacts of the Dobbs decision on Latinas’ bodily autonomy, economic wellbeing and political inclusion in American democracy. During this event, participants discussed a meaningful path forward that centers Latinas, from state level protections and abortion fund networks, to comprehensive federal legislation that secures abortion care and reproductive freedoms.
“The webinar helped to ground our research in some of the tangible, urgent issues facing Latina access to abortion,” said Hernandez Nierenberg. “Listening to community groups and on-the-ground partners allowed us to formulate a comprehensive list of policy implications based on our research and these conversations, such as enshrining the right to abortion in state constitutions, increasing funding for community-based clinics and hospitals, and protecting transgender and non-binary persons’ reproductive rights.”
Collaborating on this response to the Dobbs decision was a powerful experience for Flores Morales and Hernandez Nierenberg, who will bring this with them in their future academic and professional endeavors.
Flores Morales, who will be pursuing her postdoc at Stanford’s School of Medicine focusing on epidemiology and population health, said, “Julia was a thought partner through and through, and I’m so glad that we were able to work together to create this report. The team at UCLA LPPI was both cheering us on and also providing really important and critical feedback at each step of the way. So it was really a team effort, and I hope that the report reaches a wide audience and continues these critical conversations.”