Why Latinas are being targeted with abortion misinformation
'Really alarming. Hispanic maternal mortality rates are already at an all-time high'
- Confusion over which states have fully banned abortion enables misinformation to spread
- Religion makes Latino communities ‘easy to prey on’
- Falsehoods include that abortion could lead to problems with immigration status
- ‘If you’re Latino in this country, you’re already fearful of repercussions’
CHICAGO --- Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June, Latino communities have been facing a barrage of Spanish-language misinformation and disinformation about abortion.
Northwestern Medicine OB-GYN Dr. Melissa Simon, who is Latina, said groups targeting these communities are trying to fuel confusion and distrust in the medical system, which means some pregnant individuals who are considering an abortion won’t seek appropriate care.
“Whenever a population starts from a vulnerable position with less power, resources and knowledge—and, in this case, language—it puts that population at even greater risk of not being able to achieve the care or access the care they feel they need,” said Simon, vice chair for research in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
“We know that the overturning of Roe will increase overall mortality. But maternal mortality rates for Hispanics are already at an all-time high. That additional context makes this really alarming.”
Simon can speak to media about the variety of falsehoods she has heard from patients, such as how seeking an abortion might lead to problems with a person’s immigration status, as well as how the misinformation is spreading through social media. Contact Kristin Samuelson at email@example.com to schedule an interview.
“If you drive more misinformation, the amount of information out there is so much it becomes hard to figure out what’s true and what’s not,” said Simon, who also is the director of the Center for Health Equity Transformation at Feinberg.
“It leads to confusion, which fuels more distrust in the medical system. If you’re confused, you’re going to err on the side of not going to the doctor because you’re worried about repercussions. And if you’re Latino in this country, you’re already fearful of repercussions.”
Confusion over state abortion laws enables misinformation to spread
“In most states right now, it’s not completely black and white whether abortion is legal or illegal,” Simon said. “Because of low health literacy, potential language barriers and already inhibited or low access to care, it becomes really hard for Latinas to feel empowered to ask questions of the nuances of the ruling in their state. When you’re ensconced in information or confused, the assumption becomes automatically that you can’t have an abortion, period. That is the main concern."
‘Easy to prey on’
Latino communities are “easy to prey on” because of their religion, which is predominantly Catholic, Simon said.
“In general, Latinos are not completely against abortion,” Simon said. “We’re quiet about it, but we value somebody’s health autonomy and their ability to consult with their loved ones, their partner, their physician and God. That decision is never easy to make, and so having that autonomy to make the decision is really important. Even though Latinos are predominantly Catholic, in general, they still support choice for the most part. Look at most Latin American countries. Most of the world does not limit abortion completely, and most of the world adheres to some kind of faith.”
What can be done?
“I think the media absolutely has a role in continuing to give accurate information,” Simon said. “The internet has a role in stomping out those harmful websites and social media posts that are completely non-factual. I don’t know the answer on how to do that, but it’s critical. Finding spaces where information is trusted, such as public libraries, is also key. We need to be thoughtful and strategic about where this information lives and then spread it through social networks, especially among communities that are particularly vulnerable.”