by Mary Shaner, West Fund Volunteer
The West Fund is an abortion access fund that serves people in west Texas and along the border. We’re a group of young activists that were enraged that Texas politicians have done everything legislatively possible to deny 27 million Texans access to reproductive healthcare services -- including abortion. We formed in 2013 when House Bill 2 (HB2) was passed despite the pleas and work of people across the state. Below is our analysis about how it affects different parts of our community and how those identities and access to abortion care intersect.
A quick definition of intersectionality: One’s identity is influenced by many factors (e.g., age, gender, sexual orientation, class, race, ability, geographical location, language, religion, and/or immigration status, etc.) that intersect, creating distinct experiences. These experience vary from a position of power or privilege on one end -- or having the ability to get what you want or unearned benefits that someone is born into or acquired during their lifetime. On the other end, oppression and lack of privilege -- the internalized, interpersonal, or institutional dominance of some groups over others.
Although abortions are legal in Texas, these procedures have become increasingly restricted by the House Bill 2 (HB2). We will use intersectionality to explore the ways in which HB2 places a burden on people who are seeking to have an abortion in Texas, specifically in the El Paso/Rio Grande Region.
A Brief History of HB2
HB2 passed in 2013, despite Wendy Davis’ filibuster opposing it. HB2 closed many abortion clinics by enforcing the strictest abortion ban that Texas, the second-most populous state, has seen thus far. This includes many requirements, the most notable being that physicians who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (which is unattainable for many citizens in rural areas), leaving only 8 clinics open in the entire state.
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) voted 5-4 to block the most questionable parts of HB2, allowing a handful of clinics to remain open while it decides whether to hear an appeal. While the SCOTUS’ hold on HB2 could allow a few abortion clinics to remain open, the future is uncertain, especially given Texas’s recent history on reproductive issues.
If HB2 is upheld, it will harshly affect teens. According to Texas legislation,any minor who is not emancipated must have written consent from at least one parent, managing conservator, or legal guardian. Alternately, a judge can approve an abortion if asking permission from a parent could put the minor in danger of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Under the new HB2, minors will have to go to greater lengths to prove they ought to be allowed to have an abortion, including a requirement to apply for bypasses with judges in their home counties. This is costly and time-consuming, posing a significant problem for minors, immigrants, and other adults who are in the low-income bracket as well as those who don’t have access to reliable transportation or childcare.
If HB2 is upheld, it will also impact people across economic classes, posing a problem specifically for working class and low-income folks. According to the El Paso Metro Report, “32% of El Pasoan households are female-headed, yet they represent 53% of households living in poverty.” This situation is critical because people who live in poverty are five times more likely to have unplanned pregnancies.
Furthermore, “71% of jobs in the El Paso metro area cannot sustain a single mom with one child.”
Because of HB2, finding a clinic and getting treatment will be more expensive than ever, not considering other costs, such as taking a day off work or finding childcare. A provision of HB2 requires physicians to administer the drug RU-486 in person (coupled with a 2011 sonogram law), so a patient now needs four separate doctor visits if the drug is taken.
Queer and Trans Folks
The revised HB2 uses gender-specific language such as “woman” and “her” when describing the people who are seeking an abortion, yet the Bill fails to define these terms. This does not account for the full range of persons who may be seeking abortions (For example, how might the HB2 affect the experiences of a Trans man who is seeking an abortion compared to a cis-gender woman in a similar situation?). This is disconcerting because someone in the queer community may have less access to resources such as funding, transportation, and support due to their sexual orientation or gender, especially if this person is a minor.
Geographic location plays an increasingly important role in the debate over HB2, especially since more people are forced to travel to fewer clinics. Most fully-staffed abortion clinics are already overbooked. Overbooking leads to costly delays, further exacerbating the problem.
If El Paso’s Hilltop Clinic is forced to close, 2 million citizens will be 550 miles from the state’s nearest abortion clinic and El Paso will become the largest U.S. city without access to abortion services.
This map has all the clinics that are currently open in Texas and surrounding areas. If HB2 passes, there will only be 8 clinics in Texas. Notice the large gaps in the rural areas:
Race & Citizenship
Additionally, citizenship and language play roles in HB2. El Paso has a Hispanic majority population, and few articles explain HB2, reproductive rights, and gender equality in Spanish, so widespread education about these critical issues depends largely on many El Pasoans’ ability to understand these issues in English. Since the clinics are so far away, or across state lines, undocumented folks may have trouble crossing through border checkpoints in order to access clinics. People on parole also face this limitation. This leaves thousands of folks at risk of deportation or arrest, just to access reproductive care.
While HB2 was ostensibly created to “improve and better protect women’s health,” according to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the passing of HB2 will undoubtedly deny citizens the right to obtain healthcare procedures in professional, safe, confidential, and sanitary conditions, leading one toponder the alternatives. But as far as the West Fund is concerned, it has only made it much more difficult to access an unnecessarily stigmatized healthcare service. We’ve received a huge uptick in callers who need information, abortion funding, and support figuring out what the new rules are.
Additional Resources: Related >> PDF: Intersectionality: A Tool for Social Justice Related >> PDF: How Broadly Should Violence Be Defined? Related >> Find Abortion Funding Now Related >> The Lilith Fund en Español: ¿Necesitas ayuda? For more organizations that protect reproductive rights and support their communities, visit: · The Afiya Center · Forward Together · Law Students for Reproductive Justice · National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health · SisterSong · SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW · URGE (Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity)