In this op-ed, Brenda Rodriguez Lopez explores the double persecution undocumented immigrants face in accessing abortion.
The far-right majority of the Supreme Court just issued a shattering blow to abortion rights, stripping away many people’s freedom to make decisions for our bodies, our lives, and our futures. Losing our right to an abortion in many states will undoubtedly put millions of people at risk. But the impact will fall hardest on those who already face mounting barriers to healthcare — people of color, disabled people, and undocumented folks like me.
For immigrants, this direct attack on our bodies is a continuation of the dehumanization and violence we have endured in this country for generations through surveillance, detention, and forced sterilizations. We cannot move forward as a country without acknowledging and confronting this ongoing violence. As we figure out how to navigate a post-Roe existence, reproductive justice advocates must explicitly and unapologetically center the needs and experiences of immigrants and undocumented people. As an undocumented woman, I need and deserve to have autonomy over my bodily choices without fear of persecution, and the right to make these choices for myself regardless of my immigration status.
My family raised me to be strong and independent, to pursue my dreams and make choices for myself. But coming from a generation of women who birthed children into this world without a choice, no one ever told me explicitly that choosing to terminate a pregnancy was possible. I grew up witnessing many Latinas in my high school become young parents and face stifling conditions and extreme poverty. This is the reality of existing in a world that prioritizes birth but forgets about human life afterward.
When I took a positive pregnancy test, I was in shock, and for a moment contemplated continuing the legacy of birthing children I wasn’t ready to raise. In that moment I had a choice, and I chose to do what I knew was right for me — to get an abortion. I felt guilty that I had the opportunity to make this choice for myself when so many in my community never did. But in telling my story, I want to make sure immigrants seeking an abortion know that they are not alone, and there is an extended network that is ready to support them.
My journey wasn’t easy. Even though I spoke English, I had no information about where to go or how to find help. I didn’t feel comfortable telling my parents. I was raised religious and told abortion is a sin, instilling in me the shame and guilt that comes with having an abortion, even though I knew the decision was right for me. This is why we need to welcome undocumented immigrants into clinics and discuss abortion services in culturally — and linguistically — humble and accessible ways.
When I decided to get an abortion, I was terrified that my information would be given to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and my decision would one day be used against me. Undocumented folks face the impossible choice of forced birth or risking deportation for an abortion.