HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH
Undocumented people are forced to choose between being deported and accessing abortion care
By Lili Gomez
As a Mexican-American living in El Paso and the granddaughter of four immigrants who moved to the United States to create better lives for their families, I grew up hearing stories of a time with no border checkpoints, when people could cross freely between Juarez and El Paso. My grandmother recalls how much easier it was to become a citizen of the United States. Today, our friends, family and neighbors face far greater risks at these same borders, including hostility, violence, and the threat of deportation.
As a result, undocumented immigrants living in the El Paso region—the nexus of Mexico, Texas and New Mexico—face insurmountable barriers when it comes to accessing health care, including abortion. Whether they live in a hostile state like Texas or a state like New Mexico with fewer abortion restrictions in place, undocumented people are forced to remain in the shadows.
The fear that our current political climate has instilled in undocumented immigrants greatly affects the likelihood that they will seek out any kind of health care, let alone abortion.
At the West Fund—a small El Paso-based organization that provides financial support for people who cannot afford the full cost of an abortion—we help hundreds of people a year, including undocumented immigrants, who, in border communities like ours, struggle to access safe care the way others do. Abortion funds help fill the financial gap for people who are forced to decide between accessing abortion care and putting food on the table. In Texas, state restrictions have created a hostile environment for abortion access, with laws that force people to delay their abortion and undergo medically unnecessary sonograms prior to their procedure.
The Texas Legislature has also passed laws that have forced half of the state’s abortion clinics to close, forcing more people to travel out of state—for their care, which comes with the added costs of transportation and lodging that many cannot afford.
But, we know money isn’t the only hurdle. For undocumented people, leaving their communities to travel for abortion care is often out of the question—in-state border checkpoints and the over-policing of the border region mean people are at risk for deportation every time they get in their car, forced to choose between being ripped from their homes and families and accessing essential health care.
President Trump used his State of the Union Address Last Night to further his xenophobic, anti-choice, anti-immigrant agenda. Spreading blatant lies and misinformation at a time when undocumented immigrants are facing unprecedented attacks to their wellbeing, from their right to exist in this country to their right to make decisions about whether and when to have a child.
I am committed to achieving the world that my grandparents knew—one where our friends, family and neighbors can freely create a better life for themselves, whatever their immigration status, and that includes the right to access abortion. We must continue to tell our stories and lift up the voices of undocumented immigrants across the country so that all people, wherever they live and whatever their immigration status, can access reproductive health care, including abortion.