Growing up Latina: Just a Label or Crucial Factor in Views on Abortion?


We asked two Latinas: an Immigration attorney, Linda Vega, and Ariel Lira, a college student,  to give their views on the argument posed by Maria Echaveste stating that  all Latinos are become more accepting of abortion.

By Ariel Lira

            Whether it’s what you wear, where you live, or who your friends are, everyone always seems to be trying to fit you into some sort of cookie cutter mold for how you’re supposed to act when you’re a part of a certain ethnic group. For years I have been told that as a Latina I am supposed to behave a particular way and that I am, apparently, not living up to my culture. In reality, what I don’t live up to isn’t my culture but rather the stereotype of my culture. These stereotypes are dangerous and hinder the advancement of the Latin American community by opening up the door for inaccurate generalizations. This leads me to the article written by Maria Echaveste regarding Latinos views on abortion. Even if I did agree with Echaveste’s claims that Latinos are now acceptant of the idea of abortion, which I don’t, I do not approve of her approach to make a wide generalization of the entire Latino community. By doing this, Echaveste’s is doing exactly what all the people did to me growing up; trying to fit all Latinos into this nice little box where we all agree and have the same opinion. This is ironic, as Echaveste writes that “we [Latinos] are not sheep”.

            After graduating from a very diverse high school and now attending one of the most ethnically rich universities in the country, I’ve been exposed to many different cultures and different types of people. Like many other Hispanics, I was also raised in the church, however, unlike most, I was actually raised Baptist and not Catholic. Nevertheless, being raised in a very conservative Baptist church, I do share some of the same views as most Catholics. Of course being Hispanic in itself has and still does have an impact on how the outside world treats me, be it positively or negatively. Even the fact that I was born female has had an effect on how I perceive and interpret the world. All these factors are what molded me into the woman I am today and they have determined my views on many controversial issues, including abortion.

        Being born female I have definitely faced some road blocks when it comes to acceptance and receiving respect. Sadly, women still have to work not only as hard as men but even harder to be taken seriously in the current society we live in. Unfortunately, as awful as it is to say at this day and age, the fact that I was born Hispanic has even hindered my advancement in school, the work place, and just in overall recognition. Because of these factors, I can understand where someone, like Echaveste, could say that women, especially those in the Latino community, feel that they need to maintain a sense of ownership and pride when it comes to their bodies and what they want to do with it, including the decision to have an abortion or not.

             However, because of my conservative upbringing in the Baptist church, I also believe that life begins at conception and that an abortion should be considered as the killing of a potential human life. On the other hand, as a political science major who hopes to attend law school, I know and understand that the law doesn’t believe the same thing I do. Life, according to the letter of the law in most states, begins when the unborn child could sustain life outside the womb. In turn, there is a sense of an internal tug-o-war on where I should lie on the issue of pro-life or pro-choice.

            As a young woman on a college campus, I also understand that the propensity for rape is a scarily high one and that this is a fear that faces all women every time they walk alone at night. If something like this would ever happen to me and I did end being impregnated by my attacker, I would want to say I would keep the child. However, having the constant reminder of what happened for at least 9 months of my life would understandably take an emotional toll on any woman. In contrast to this though, if I ever made the decision to have an abortion, I would have to struggle with knowing every day that I didn’t just terminate a pregnancy, but I took a potential life out of this world. The emotional trauma that would come from this, I can only imagine, would be just as unbearable.

            In the process of writing this article, I was overcome to ask some of my fellow students their thoughts on this topic. Despite the fact that two of the students I asked were both college aged Latina females, they had completely converse views on which side of the debate they were on, whether it be prolife or prochoice. This alone disproves Echaveste’s claims that Latinas are all now under some sort of common umbrella when it comes to their stance on abortion. After hearing what they each had to say, I understood where both of them were coming from though and found that they both had solid arguments; some of which I even used when thinking over this article.

            Everything I’ve experience in my life thus far, whether it be what I was taught in church, the lessons I’ve learned in school, or how I was treated because of my ethnicity or gender, have all been deciding factors when it comes to my stance on abortion. At this point in my life, as a young Baptist Latina college student, I’ve determined that abortion is not an option unless there are certain conditions that would severely endanger the life of the mother or of the child emotionally or physically. I’m proud to say that I’m pro-life and that, despite what this may insinuate about me, I don’t feel as if I’m robbing a women of personal control of her own body but rather, I’m protecting the life of that potential child that is living inside her.

Ariel Lira is in her junior year at the University of Houston; to which she received a scholarship for academic excellence and achievement.  Ms. Lira is in the process of attaining her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science with a minor focus on Sociology.   After graduation, Ms. Lira has plans of attending law school; concentrating on immigration law and or domestic violence.   She is an active member of and the Historian for her campus’ LULAC Council and is also a singer in a worship band with the Baptist Student Ministry.   Ms. Lira is currently an intern with the Vega Law Firm and is assisting with the organization of Latinos Ready to Vote.

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