Earlier this month, when several Texas abortion clinics announced that they will be forced to close under a stringent state law that was enacted over the summer, reproductive rights advocates didn’t mince words about the devastating impact of the news. The latest round of closures leaves the impoverished Rio Grande Valley, a vast border community in southwestern Texas, without any clinics whatsoever. Since the abortion clinics that have managed to stay open under the new law are located in Texas’ urban centers, there are little options available for women in the more rural areas of the state, who now have to navigate a 400-mile stretch that doesn’t have a single facility providing abortion care.
And there is perhaps nowhere more rural than the Lower Rio Grande. One of the poorest regions of the country, this area of Texas is home to thousands of so-called colonias, which are border communities that aren’t technically considered to be Texas municipalities. Colonias often lack basic services that the state provides in other counties, like paved roads, electricity, sanitation systems, clean water, and safely constructed housing units.
Women here have been facing serious threats to their reproductive rights well before Texas’ new law started shutting down abortion clinics.
Although the national media typically focuses its attention on abortion, that’s not the only type of health service that’s disappearing in Texas. As the state’s clinics are shuttered, women are also losing access to basic preventative care like birth control and Pap smears. On top of that, the family planning network in Texas has been crippled by deep funding cuts over the past several years.
“The U.S. has been building up a reproductive health safety net since the 1970s that been serving millions of women. For many women and men, it’s their first point of access to health care. Now, under the cover of night, states like Texas are eroding that safety net with a combination of complicated strategies,” Katrina Anderson, the Human Rights Counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, explained to ThinkProgress.