Nuestro Texas Campaign Returns to Rio Grande Valley

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Numerous challenges still remain for Latinas seeking basic health care in Texas
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(PRESS RELEASE) Reproductive health advocates will gather in the Rio Grande Valley today to celebrate the successes of Nuestro Texas, a campaign designed to shine a spotlight on the real impact Texas women and families in the Rio Grande Valley have faced due to a severe lack of access to reproductive health care.

The cornerstone of the campaign is a groundbreaking report—Nuestra Voz, Nuestra Salud, Nuestro Texas: The Fight for Women’s Reproductive Health in the Rio Grande Valley—led by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH). The report documented the devastating human toll on Latinas and their families in the Rio Grande Valley community in the wake of Texas’s 2011 policy decisions to slash the state’s family planning budget by two-thirds and bar any health centers even affiliated with facilities that provide abortion services from receiving any family planning funding. These policy decisions impacted women statewide but took an especially deep toll on women in the Valley.

Since the launch of the Nuestro Texas campaign in November 2013, women’s health advocates have used the stories of women in the Valley and the findings in the report as a tool to raise awareness of the dire status of women’s reproductive rights in the region, not just in Texas and the United States, but also globally.  In March, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Latina Institute testified before the U.N. Human Rights Committee in Geneva during a review of the U.S. human rights record. The Committee urged the U.S. to eliminate discriminatory policies that impede immigrant women’s access to reproductive health care. In February, the campaign partners also participated in a Congressional briefing sponsored by Texas Representatives Castro, Greene and O’Rourke to call attention to the link between federal and state policies that affect immigrant women’s reproductive health care.

“In the face of countless assaults on their health and dignity, the women of the Rio Grande Valley remain steadfast in their fight for affordable and accessible reproductive health care in their community,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “Today’s event serves as a stark reminder that thousands of women in the United States, like those hit hardest in communities in the Valley, are suffering every day without access to essential health care. It’s time that politiciansfrom Texas and across the countryfinally hear these women’s voices, restore full funding to the clinics that serve them best, and eliminate discriminatory policies that prevent access to care based immigration status.”

“Despite long delays at clinics and the elimination of many free and low-cost services, making reproductive health care unavailable and unaffordable for hundreds of thousands, Rio Grande Valley women continue to raise their voices to advocate for women’s health and rights,” said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “Nuestro Texas stories shine a light on the reproductive health disparities many women face, attracting a national and even global audience. Today, we celebrate the work of the women in the Valley by promising that we will not rest until all Latinas have access to quality, affordable health care.”

Not content with choking off funding for family planning services, Texas politicians also set their sights on virtually eliminating safe and legal abortion services in the state by passing HB2— an omnibus anti-choice bill— last summer.  In September 2013, more than a dozen women’s health care advocates and providers filed a lawsuit against two of the most harmful provisions of HB2: the admitting privileges requirement and the restrictions on medication abortion.  While the entire admitting privileges provision and part of the medication abortion restrictions were initially struck down as unconstitutional by a federal district court, the measures took effect in October 2013 after a three judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stayed the lower court’s injunction. The same appellate court later upheld the two provisions. The providers now await a decision whether the full Fifth Circuit will review the constitutionality of the admitting privileges requirement and the lack of health exception in the restrictions on medication abortion. 

In April 2014, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed an additional lawsuit against HB2, seeking to block admitting privileges requirement specifically as it applies to Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen and Reproductive Health Services in El Paso—two clinics that are among the last, if not the only, reproductive health care providers offering safe, legal abortion care in their communities. The second suit also seeks to strike HB2’s provision that every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the same building requirements as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs), a provision scheduled to take effect in September 2014 that would leave fewer than 10 clinics in Texas and force many women to endure a roundtrip of more than a thousand miles or cross state lines to access safe and legal abortion services.

Representatives from the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Latina Institute will be joined at today’s event by Rep. Terry Canales (TX-40).  Representative Canales will discuss the policy recommendations included in the report, focusing on Congressional fixes to this dire health care crisis.