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The Latino community is facing issues with misinformation on abortions

DANIEL ESTRIN, HOST:

Misinformation impacts all kinds of important issues from COVID-19 to the 2016 election, and especially now, abortion. People considering abortions can be hit with misinformation about its safety and legality, especially after the Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson ruling overturned Roe v. Wade this summer. One group hard-hit by this type of misinformation has been the Latino or Latinx community. Elizabeth Estrada is with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice and joins us now from the Bronx in New York.

Welcome.

ELIZABETH ESTRADA: Thanks, Daniel. It's nice to be with you.

ESTRIN: Yeah, thanks for being here. Could you just start by telling us a little bit about your personal story, how you became active in reproductive health in the Latinx community?

ESTRADA: I actually got activated when I had my first abortion, and I experienced firsthand all the barriers and stigma that's attached to such a simple procedure. And it really activated me. And I knew that I wanted to be involved in the fight for reproductive justice and for abortion access overall.

ESTRIN: Well, walk us through a few examples of abortion misinformation affecting the Latino community today. What does it look like, actually?

ESTRADA: Well, you know, much like my own experience, where you hear that abortion causes depression or may cause cervical cancer or infertility or that it's unsafe, that you might bleed out. But we know that abortion is one of the safest procedures out there, far safer than even childbirth.

ESTRIN: Where are people getting this misinformation, these falsehoods? Is it online? Is it just things that their families tell them?

ESTRADA: Oftentimes, the first source of information that you hear is your immediate circle. So if you are considering having an abortion or considering your options for pregnancy, you'll ask a friend. You'll ask a loved one or a family member. And depending on where that family member or loved one lands on the spectrum of their faith or how they feel about abortion, you will hear things that perhaps someone has heard in the church, perhaps someone has heard from a crisis pregnancy center or by following anti-abortion accounts online. My own family, that get information from WhatsApp, you know? - as an immigrant, you will get a foreword from your aunt of, like, a graphic saying abortion causes cancer or abortion causes depression; choose life, something like that.

ESTRIN: So what has been the trend since the repeal of Roe v. Wade?

ESTRADA: The trend that I've seen is really kind of like an amplification of this misinformation. When the Dobbs decision came down in July, we were out in the streets. We were protesting and trying to share information with our community members. And some of the community members that showed up to our protests were confused because they thought that abortion was already illegal or limited or restricted. Even in more progressive state like New York, there still exists this lack of information that doesn't get to our communities because often we get a lot of our information from Univision or Telemundo. And you're seeing this fearmongering around prosecution and criminalization of self-managed abortion.

ESTRIN: So who is doing the targeting? I mean, is the Latinx community specifically targeted by misinformation?

ESTRADA: My experience is that we are being targeted because when I look at these crisis pregnancy centers or the misinformation, oftentimes there's animation or graphics that reflect Black and brown people in them. And so for me, it's obvious to make the connection between who you're trying to target if the majority of these infographics or the placements of the publications are largely in Black and brown media and non-English-speaking communities because if we understand the medical industry as English-speaking people, it's still hard to advocate for yourself as a patient, get the right information, ask the right questions for someone who doesn't speak English. Then medical speak becomes even harder.

ESTRIN: But who do you think is behind it? I mean, do you think these are people within the Latino community who want to impact their own community and convince women not to get abortions? Is this coming from the outside?

ESTRADA: I believe that it has been a long game for the anti-abortion movement to target our communities, and they have done a good job of absorbing people within our own community through religion and anti-abortion rhetoric to kind of be the messengers of this disinformation.

ESTRIN: What is being done now to counter this trend?

ESTRADA: We have to shift into this place of just simply talking about abortion care. While policy and advocacy and activism is important, not everyone can do that. But what we can do is sit down to dinner and be honest and tell our loved ones why we support people's right to access abortion.

ESTRIN: Elizabeth Estrada is with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice.

Thank you so much.

ESTRADA: Thanks, Daniel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.
Isabella Gomez Sarmiento is a production assistant with Weekend Edition.
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