11/22/2013 10:49 am ET

Latinas Face Reproductive Health Barriers With Survival Of Texas Law


Latinas in the State of Texas have been fighting for better access regarding reproductive health care since state legislation reallocated funding, causing the shut-down of numerous family-planning clinics, particularly in low-income counties. While the decision affects all women in the state of Texas, Latinas are some of the hardest hit because they typically reside in the lower-income communities.

In an effort to stop the legislation, which took funds from low-cost centers and allocated them to more expensive, less convenient primary care clinics, an appeal was issued to the Supreme Court in hopes the implementation of the law could be blocked. Unfortunately, MSNBC reports the appeal process came up one vote short.

“Reasonable minds can perhaps disagree about whether the court of appeals should have granted a stay in this case,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the decision. “But there is no doubt that the applicants have not carried their heavy burden of showing that doing so was a clear violation of accepted legal standards — which do not include a special ‘status quo’ standard for laws affecting abortion.”

In other words, legally, there was no reason why the Texas legislation, which complicated access to reproductive health care for low-income women, should not go into effect. The basis of the case was ideological, and therefore the law was upheld by the majority vote.

Justices voting for a repeal of the law, as well as women’s rights advocates around the state, argue the law significantly reduces the opportunity women around the state have to have safe abortions and access to contraception.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote for the four dissenters, indicating the law would leave 24 counties in the Rio Grande Valley without abortion clinics. “It may,” he added, as reported by the New York Times, “substantially reduce access to safe abortions elsewhere in Texas.”

Lawmakers in Texas who support the ruling state that while women in some low-income communities may be adversely affected, more than 90 percent of women in the state will still live within 100 miles of a clinic that can take care of family planning and abortions.

For Latinas, who often cite transportation issues as barriers to care, 100 miles to the nearest clinic with family-planning resources may not be reasonable. Latinas are also more likely than non-Hispanic white women to have difficulty funding medical services, making long trips to expensive health care facilities a deterrent to care.

All in all, experts indicate the Texas legislation affecting reproductive health care has shut down more than a third of the state’s 36 abortion clinics to stop performing such procedures, preventing some 20,000 women a year from access to safe abortions.



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