This year’s legislative session in Texas turned out to be a nightmare for women across the state. Unfortunately, it’s been a recurring nightmare. I was in Austin witnessing the latest attacks and the devastating culmination of years of attacks on women’s health. I was at the capitol for the passing of House Bill 2 (HB2), which contains restrictions that would turn back the clock on Texas women’s health. The bill, which is now law, will virtually ban abortion in much of the state. And the women who have been hurt the most by these bills are low-income and Latina women.
HB2 makes a terrible situation for women’s health even worse. This new law will severely limit access to safe and legal abortion in Texas, which may cause women to resort to desperate and dangerous measures. These relentless attacks on women’s health have a devastating impact on women who already have the least access to health care, such as Latinas. Latinas face greater obstacles to obtaining, and benefiting from, sexual and reproductive health services than non-Latino white Americans. As a result, Latinas experience higher rates of reproductive cancers, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections than most other groups of people.
During regular and special sessions, the legislature ignored the deeply personal, moving testimony of hundreds of women who came to the capitol from all parts of Texas to tell their stories. They ignored the words of doctors and medical professionals who stood against this outrageous attack on women's health. They ignored the wishes of Texans, 80 percent of whom said they did not want this bill. And despite the courageous 11-hour people's filibuster, led by State Senator Wendy Davis, they pressed for a third special session and finally passed this terrible bill.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg: There’s a health care crisis faced by women in Texas, where one in four women are uninsured. An estimated 130,000 women are going without basic, preventive health care due to the 2011 Texas Legislature’s drastic cuts to women’s health care funding, and tens of thousands more may be losing access to health care since Governor Rick Perry has also banned Planned Parenthood from the state Women’s Health Program (WHP). Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas were critical to the success of this program, providing lifesaving cancer screenings, well-woman exams, contraception, screening for diabetes and high blood pressure, and testing for sexually transmitted infections. The WHP was an essential program for Latinas, since Latinas have the third highest death rates from cervical cancer and higher rates of HIV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia; and now without Planned Parenthood in the program, they may be left without access to preventive health care.
People are enraged by these relentless attacks and this moment is about us. It's about what we have seen happen in the past years. It's about thousands of people across the country shouting, "ENOUGH!" And I know, without a doubt, that those fighting for women’s health aren’t going anywhere.
Yvonne was a key participant in the 2013 Latino State of the State in Texas hosted by MALDEF on August 15th in San Antonio, TX. This forum brought together select community leaders to discuss the true state of Latino life in Texas.