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WASHINGTON — Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, was among a group of Latina state legislators that met with Vice President Kamala Harris about reproductive rights on Friday.
Lawmakers stressed the importance of abortion rights as health care and discussed the impact the overturn of Roe v. Wade has had on their constituents.
"In Utah many women, especially women of color, do not have access to even basic health care services and contraceptives," said Romero, who is the president of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators. "We know that nationally, people who are already poor or middle class — many of those Latinas or Native Americans or Black — when they're denied an abortion (there is) a dramatic increase in unpaid bills, bankruptcy and being evicted from their homes, all of which perpetuates the cycle of poverty."
A judge placed Utah's trigger law on hold earlier this summer until a Planned Parenthood lawsuit against the law is settled. Meanwhile, Romero is sponsoring a bill that would remove criminal penalties for those who provide abortion services or information.
"I am thankful for the vice president for taking a culturally sensitive approach to this complicated issue and looking to Latina leaders who represent different ethnic and geographic rural and urban areas," Romero said.
Harris thanked the lawmakers for their work on reproductive rights and stressed that she and President Joe Biden take the matter very seriously.
"Latina leaders across America are on the front lines leading on this issue," Harris told lawmakers during a public meeting at the White House. "And in particular, when we talk about the impact on Latinas — we are faced with a number of particular issues that are present for other women as well, but particular issues that include where there may be a language barrier. That was an issue in terms of access to health care before the Dobbs decision (that overturned Roe v. Wade) and has become a bigger issue now."
Other Latina lawmakers who attended the event stressed that abortion should not be a religious issue.
"I am Catholic, so I understand religious objections to abortion," Texas state Rep. Gina Hinojosa. "But like many Catholics, and like many Texans, I also understand that I can live my life of faith, I can practice my faith and live in a country that protects the rights of all Americans to practice their own faith to make decisions about their bodies and their families."
Following the public meeting, lawmakers went into a private session. Romero was not immediately available to comment about the outcomes of that meeting.