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‘ICE is an Enemy of Reproductive Rights’: Speech by an Abortion Provider

An abortion nurse in New York City explains why ICE and anti-immigrant policies make it hard for immigrants to access abortions.

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An immigration activist holds up a sign calling for the abolishment of ICE, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, during rally to protest the Trump Administration's immigration policy outside the Department of Justice in Washington, U.S., June 30, 2018.
Image: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The following is a speech by Angelique Saavedra, an abortion healthcare provider in New York City. She spoke at the “No bans, no borders” rally in New York City for immigrants rights and reproductive rights.

I’m Angelique, an abortion provider from El Paso, Texas. I currently provide abortions in New York City and I work with a large immigrant community from around the world. 

I’ve worked with countless immigrants seeking abortion healthcare. It shouldn’t matter why they need abortions, abortion is healthcare. But it is worth mentioning that many of them are already parents trying to support the kids they have in a patriarchal capitalist system that does not provide conditions for people, especially Black and Brown workers, adequate conditions to parent. 

I remember one mother was trying to escape an abusive and violent partner, so she came to me for an abortion. I’ve seen firsthand how abortion is life saving health care.

Just last week after Roe was overturned, I had a patient in my office with tears in her eyes who thought she was going to be criminalized for having an abortion in New York. But this is already a devastating reality for those who live in states with trigger laws like Oklahoma. 

As an abortion nurse, I know that ICE stands in the way of reproductive rights. Borders, border checks and carceral immigration policies make it all the more difficult for undocumented immigrants to access safe abortions. But ICE  doesn’t just interfere with abortion access. They interfere with the right to parent.  Remember in 2018 when a mother from Honduras was breastfeeding her daughter in an ICE detention facility in McAllen Texas when she was forcibly separated from her child? How many more stories are there of that kind of separation? And today the Biden administration continues to detain migrant children for days, weeks, or months at a time. 

Immigrant communities should be allowed to parent with the support and resources they need, not separated from their children. This is an act of violence.  

Many well-intentioned abortion rights activists say that abortion pills will save us. But what about the undocumented teenager who traveled all the way from the South only to get to New York when she was 20 weeks pregnant? Abortion pills won’t save her. What about the immigrant communities who dont speak English or have limited internet and computer access? Everyone who can get pregnant should have free access to abortion pills, but I can see how unfortunately many won’t have the same access as wealthy white ciswomen.  That’s why our goal must be a federal law for free, legal, safe and accessible abortion for anyone who needs one.

As a health care worker, I am excited to see the unionization of Amazon and Starbucks workers. Health care workers, who have been working with skeleton crews and minimal resources throughout the Covid-19 pandemic will soon be overwhelmed with patients seeking out-of-state abortion healthcare. This is unacceptable. Healthcare workers need to unite to demand safe working conditions so they can be prepared for the inevitable increase in patients seeking abortion services from out-of-state. We must also unite to fight for abortion rights around the country. 

Reproductive justice and access to free safe legal abortion is an international struggle, and we need to learn from the feminist movement in Latin America. In Argentina, thousands of people in the streets forced the government to concede despite the power of the Catholic Church. It’s inspiring and it’s an example to all of us here.

Free, safe, and legal abortion on demand and without apology. We’ll need to build a movement because the politicians will only ask for donations. but they won’t give us anything if we don’t fight for it.

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