On September 1, many Texans will wake up and not even realize that a basic right has been all but taken away by our state government. Over the summer, Governor Greg Abbott (R) signed into law two of the most extreme anti-abortion laws in the country: One bans abortion as early as six weeks, before many people even know they’re pregnant, and emboldens almost any private citizen to sue abortion providers and others suspected of helping someone seeking abortion care — including family members, ride-share drivers, and even clergy members; the other would outlaw abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States, with no exceptions for rape or incest.
It’s infuriating to realize that even with so much work left to do to ensure everyone has the resources and support needed to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, our anti-choice government officials have decided to make health care even less accessible.
My 15-year-old niece is one of the brightest people I know. When I see the restrictions on reproductive health care that Abbott signed into law, I think about her. I recall stories I heard from mentors who organized at the University of Texas at Austin before Roe v. Wade, and what I saw, lived, and heard from my friends while I was at UT myself, experiencing the world for the first time as an adult. I don’t want to imagine my niece and her friends having to go through the same thing. I don’t want them to experience barriers to getting health care they may need. I don’t want them fighting a fight that was supposed to have been won back in 1973, one that we continue to struggle with today because our bodies are viewed as political pawns.
I live in Laredo, a border town in South Texas, where access to basic health care is extremely limited and reproductive health care is even more difficult to find. One of the many reasons I support Medicare for All is because I believe health care is a human right, not just a privilege for those who can afford it.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people in my community to cross over to Mexico for care because it’s more affordable there. My friends and I have crossed into Nuevo Laredo for pap smears, birth control, and mammograms because they’re unaffordable on this side of the border for those who are uninsured. We recognize that we have the privilege to cross the border to get the care we need — a privilege many of our undocumented loved ones don’t have.
The first time I ran for Congress, I heard similar stories from countless people in our community. People shared experiences of having to travel for hours, to the Rio Grande Valley or San Antonio, to receive abortion care because Laredo doesn’t have a clinic. Reproductive health care is basic health care, but given the disproportionate impact that lack of access to this care has on BIPOC and low-income communities, it’s also a racial and economic justice issue.
When laws that push access to reproductive health care out of reach take effect, it’s always women of color and low-income communities that are most harmed. Others who have the resources and connections will always find a way to receive the care they need. But people like my niece, my sister, my mother, my neighbors, and friends don’t have the same luxury of choice. This year, the state of Texas kicked Planned Parenthood health centers out of the state’s Medicaid program, stripping basic services — including cancer and STI screenings — from the communities that need them most. Texas also has one of the highest maternal mortality rates, which disproportionately affects Black mothers.