Shortly after Esmeralda delivered her last child, her husband died in a car accident.
She was left as the sole caretaker and family breadwinner for five children under age 11. Esmeralda has been living in the U.S. for 13 years, but unlike her U.S. citizen children, she is undocumented.
Esmeralda admits that her youngest child, now three months old, was not a planned pregnancy. In the past she got her birth control pills from a Planned Parenthood health center, but “when they took the funding for contraceptives away [and] I couldn’t get them anymore, that’s when I got pregnant.” Paying full price for contraception became a luxury Esmeralda could not afford.
“See, those pills cost $50. That’s $50 a month, but I can barely make ends meet. So, more than anything else, our problem is the funding they took away.”
“That’s the story too at [Nuestra] Clínica del Valle, they charge now. I used to have the county Medicaid, but not anymore. They’re turning everyone down because there’s no funding…I don’t need a whole lot of help, right, but when I do, there’s little available.”
Esmeralda worries about becoming sick, particularly now that she needs to stay healthy for her children. She does not know where to go for any kind of health care, preventive or otherwise. “Right now there’s nowhere I can go, I don’t have a place to go. I mean, if we get a cold we just take a pill for this, or take a pill for that, a pill and that’s about it.” As for an annual checkup, “It’s been now a year and three months [since her last one]. See, I was pregnant and I just had my baby, so it’s about time.”
Aside from the cost of the appointment, getting to a health facility is another worry. “Gas is expensive and transportation is a struggle. Now that I’m widowed, it’s even worse.” She is unable to work because of her child care responsibilities, so a doctor’s visit—which involves the cost of the appointment, gas money or bus fare for herself and her children, or arranging and paying for childcare—is simply too much.
In 2011, the state of Texas made drastic cuts to its family planning program, which forced over one-quarter of state-funded clinics in the Lower Rio Grande Valley to close completely and most others to reduce hours and staff. Low-income women of the Valley like Esmeralda now have nowhere to turn for a trusted source of affordable reproductive healthcare. For more information about the impact of these policies on women’s lives, read the report.