By Cristina Aguilar, Executive Director, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR)
As a new year begins, we have a lot to celebrate in Colorado. We were able to defeat, for the third time, an attempt to write personhood into our state Constitution — a move designed to restrict access to a range of critical reproductive health services. This victory came in part due to record numbers of Latinos, who currently represent 14 percent of the electorate in Colorado, voting against this dangerous initiative.
We are proud of the role that we played in the defeat of Amendment 67. We made calls and knocked on doors. We had bilingual radio ads and attended rallies. We also held cafecitos — which means “small cup of coffee” in Spanish — gatherings where we brought people together with food and music to talk about what the amendment would mean to them and to their families. We realized the importance of not only mobilizing people for the vote, but of building a stronger movement of Latinas in our state. These are people who will show up and speak out when there are threats to the health and the bodily autonomy of ourselves, our mothers, our daughters, our sisters and our community.
Election night 2014 brought that great victory for us, but we also lost a champion for reproductive health in the U.S. Senate, and both the federal and our state Senate shifted to anti-choice control. We know that the change in the makeup and balance of our legislature is sure to bring an increase in attacks on issues that we care about.
We are already seeing attempts to limit access to abortion. We have also heard that we may face an attempt to pass a ban on abortion care later in pregnancy. This is especially troubling for Colorado given that we have a clinic providing that care to those who need it. We know that this issue can make people uncomfortable. We will build on our past efforts to cultivate dialogue in our community in order to defeat any attempt to restrict access or push abortion care out of reach. We are also working to protect funding for critical Colorado family planning programs that help people to plan their pregnancies.
At COLOR, we are committed to making sure that each person has the ability to make their own decision when it comes to pregnancy, parenting and abortion. That includes ensuring that people feel supported in becoming parents. We know that being able to decide whether and when we are ready to raise a child and to have the resources to care for our children is a critical part of building healthy families. That is why we are working on policies that impact the full scope of women’s lives — from access to reproductive health services to the financial stability of our community. Colorado just raised its minimum wage at the start of this year. A person working full time at minimum wage will earn about $478 dollars more starting this year. This is a great step forward, but we still have a lot of work to do to support working families, including ongoing efforts to ensure that each person is paid a living wage.
Many families are dealt a damaging financial blow in times of injury and illness because of a lack of paid medical and paid family leave. Without paid leave, an economic burden is placed on families at a time when they should be able to focus on caring for loved ones. We support programs and policies aimed at ensuring that, whether it is a new child through birth or adoption, a bout with the flu or a family member in need of care, people are able to take the time they need without putting themselves in financial ruin.
We were founded to empower young Latinas and their families and to shape and influence the policies that affect our community. We are committed to working to move legislation that helps to create reproductive and economic justice for women and families. On this, the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we recognize that our efforts to ensure that Colorado women are able to lead healthy, empowered lives are more important than ever.