(PRESS RELEASE) Dozens of Latinas from Texas’ Rio Grande Valley will share their stories about the growing reproductive health care crisis in Texas with a group of global human rights experts today at a women’s human rights hearing sponsored by the Center for Reproductive Rights, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), U.S. Human Rights Network, and 10 Texas-based organizations.
The human rights hearing will highlight the many barriers Latinas in underserved areas of Texas face when seeking reproductive health care due to state and federal policies that have closed reproductive health clinics, eliminated family planning funding, barred immigrant women from affordable health coverage, and placed abortion care out of reach. Seven experts in the fields of women’s rights, health, and immigrant rights will receive oral and written testimony from over 20 women directly affected by the loss of services and legal and administrative barriers. Several reproductive health care providers in the Valley are also testifying about difficulties providing family planning and abortion services in the Valley in the wake of Texas’ attacks on women’s health care.
“Politicians across the state of Texas have denied millions of women, especially Latinas and immigrant women, their basic human rights through their relentless assaults on access to reproductive health services,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Today’s hearing lifts the voices of the women and their families who have suffered the brunt of this health care crisis, and exposes these state policies as the human rights violations they are.”
“As an organization that has been building Latina power in Texas for nearly a decade, we have seen firsthand the devastating impact of state and federal policies that block Latinas from getting the care they need,” said Jessica González-Rojas, the executive director of NLIRH. “These barriers include the high cost of care, lack of transportation, and lack of accessible clinics or culturally competent care. Moreover, immigrant Latinas in Texas and nationwide are locked out of most affordable health insurance options because of discriminatory policies that bar immigrants from Medicaid and ACA benefits. In Texas, where 40 percent of the women are Latina—many of whom are immigrants—these barriers are unacceptable. That’s why we’ve brought women from across the Valley to tell their stories.”
Following the testimony, experts will comment on the crisis from a human rights perspective and discuss how policymakers might address the crisis and reverse policies that have exacerbated long-term barriers to necessary reproductive health care, including poverty and immigration enforcement policies. Later this summer, the Center and NLIRH will release an outcome document with the women’s testimony and expert analysis of the human rights crisis in the Valley.
One of the women testifying, Dina Nuñez, said, "For me, the solution is that the funds return to my county and that clinics reopen. One of the universal rights we have is protection of health care services for all people."
The Center and NLIRH have been documenting the devastating impact of Texas family planning cuts and other threats to the health and human rights of Latinas and immigrant women in South Texas since late 2012. Last month, the Center and NLIRH released a policy blueprint called Nuestro Texas: A Reproductive Justice Agenda for Latinas that outlines proactive policies Texas politicians should enact to end the current health care crisis in the state and restore access to critical reproductive health services. In November 2013, the Center and NLIRH released Nuestra Voz, Nuestra Salud, Nuestro Texas: The Fight for Women’s Reproductive Health in the Rio Grande Valley, a joint report showing how barriers to reproductive health—including high costs, lack of transportation, immigration status and lack of accessible clinics—systemically bar Texas Latinas from care they need to live with health and dignity.
The Center for Reproductive Rights is currently challenging two components of Texas’ omnibus bill HB2, legislation that has shuttered over half of the reproductive health care clinics offering abortion services. A ruling is imminent from the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which will determine the fate of the remaining clinics, including the last abortion provider in the Rio Grande Valley. NLIRH community leaders provided expert testimony in the case.