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When I attended community college, I worked two minimum-wage jobs — yet still was financially strapped and unable to afford health insurance. One day as I was walking down the hall, I saw a flyer that said that Planned Parenthood was opening a health center in one of the classrooms. I visited the new, conveniently located center — and the rest is history. Because I was able to get preventive care, including birth control, I was able to fulfill my life goals: to graduate college and become a mother.

Access to birth control is absolutely critical for women because if we don’t have it, we can’t move ahead in life — we can’t plan for our education and we can’t plan to have children when we can afford to raise them. Last year, Planned Parenthood provided birth control services and information to 3,573,182 women.

As a Latina, I am acutely aware that cultural barriers exist in the Latino community that can pose an obstacle to accessing health care. It’s important for Latinos to have access to birth control because when you can choose when and how you have children, you can raise up your family, and when you raise up your family you raise up your community.

Planned Parenthood reaches out to Latino Americans through in-person, hands-on communication. Informational websites in English and Spanish help Latinos make sense of the Affordable Care Act so that we can access the health care they need.

Because I could take charge of my life with affordable birth control, I was able to transfer out of community college to UCLA. Ten days after graduation, I gave birth to my son. I then went on to graduate school at Harvard and a political career in Washington DC on Capitol Hill.

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