Texas Abortion Legislation Impacts Already Vulnerable Border Population

Laura Clevenger, Staff Writer

Texas state lawmakers made pregnancy termination more challenging and more expensive in July by passing one of the strictest abortion measures in the country. The new law will ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and hold clinics to the same standards as hospital-style surgical centers. Democrat Wendy Davis brought the legislation to national attention, gaining instant social media fame as she endured an 11-hour filibuster, stalling the bill past its deadline.

While Davis became a Twitter sensation overnight, her impressive filibuster wasn’t enough to stop bill. Republican Rick Perry called for a special session to reconsider the legislation, which resulted in its 19-11 passage later that week. As Twitter moves on to its next #hashtag obsession, the consequences of this new law have a significant impact on women in Texas, especially those in the south along the Texas-Mexico border.

While supporters of the law claim that it protects women’s health, it doesn’t address the financial burden that comes with having a child. It costs approximately $157,410 for a single mother in Texas to raise a child from birth to age 18. The question of what is better—having an abortion or raising a child in poverty—is a highly debatable one. Women living in poverty on the Texas-Mexico border won’t have their own say in that question.

At least 36 of the 42 licensed abortion facilities in Texas do not meet the new requirements because they are not ambulatory surgical centers. There are only four clinics that offer abortions along the 800-mile border between El Paso and Brownsville. None of them meet the new standards. The clinics will have 90 days to adhere to rules or close their doors. These clinics provide abortions for women from southern New Mexico, where there are no abortion services, and northern Mexico, where abortion is illegal. But if lawmakers believe enacting stricter laws will stop determined women from obtaining an abortion, they are ignoring the reality of being pregnant and in poverty. Women who want an abortion will have no other option than to turn to dangerous alternatives.

Although abortion is illegal in Mexico, women often buy the drug misoprostol, which will induce an abortion if taken in a high dosage. The pill, which is prescribed for stomach ulcers, does not require a prescription and can be purchased at any pharmacy in Mexico. As abortion clinics begin to shut down in Texas, there may be an increased demand for this drug as women cross the border seeking a black-market-method of pregnancy termination. Misoprostol costs $200 and comes with serious complications if used without the guidance of a medical professional. Massive bleeding, infections, and severe abdominal pain are all common side effects. While pro-abortion legislation officials proclaim the health benefits of this new law, women will be at higher risk for death and disease if they choose to cross the border and self-induce an abortion.

Opponents of the bill will most likely bring the law to court claiming the new standard poses an “undue burden” on women’s health and is therefore unconstitutional. Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, is quoted in The New York Times: “People are enraged by this law, and it has created a whole new generation of activists who are in it for the long run to elect leaders who will protect women’s health.” The passage of this legislation is a wake up call—the battle for women’s health in the United States is far from over, especially for low-income women on the border.

Laura is a senior at NYU Steinhardt studying Public Health and minoring in Public Policy and Management. Contact her at: lec346@nyu.edu

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