In November 2011, Rosa, a 32-year-old mother of three from Donna, Texas, felt a lump in her breast.
She went to the local Planned Parenthood health center in Weslaco to get it checked. They referred her for an ultrasound, but she was unable to pay the $500 fee to get it done.
Four months later, she felt discomfort in her uterus and made another appointment at a Planned Parenthood health center, but they were unable to offer her reduced fee services because their funding had been cut. “Half a year later I went back in case they had funding again, because my problem was getting worse and I was feeling sick. But it was the same story again, no funding. Six months later I ended up in the hospital and they found out what I had. So I put in an application with the county [to cover surgery], because the doctors said that the cyst had grown, that it had affected an ovary, and that if I didn’t have surgery in time they were going to have to remove my entire uterus.”
Fortunately, Rosa qualified for county assistance to cover the surgery through a program that covers certain health procedures for the indigent. But she has been unable to get a check-up since the surgery, as she is supposed to do every three months.
“I went to the other clinics, but either I didn’t qualify [for reduced fees] or the next appointment was for three months down the road, a year down the road, and I just couldn’t wait that long.”
“I don’t know who has funding so I can have a check-up that I can afford.”
Rosa’s experience took a heavy toll on her family. “Not getting any help from the clinics, from doctors, from hospitals, is really getting to me, getting to my husband because he can’t work, getting to my children because they see me sick, lying in bed in pain for a year, suffering, trying to save money to buy medication since I could not afford a clinic because they were too expensive. I saw my children and my husband looking at me in desperation, not knowing what to do… Having doors shut on you everywhere you go makes you feel like you’re in the desert, a desert where there’s no help, no one to lend a hand.”
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 Rosa 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.