Photo: Women's health
Isabel will not have any medical tests done in Texas because her doctor’s bill is already $15,000. So she will cross the border into Mexico to see a physician.
Cases like this are the focus of a new study that sounds the alarm regarding the difficulties of women in the Rio Grande Valley in getting medical care for health issues related to their gender.
On top of the regular health problems in one of the poorest areas of the United States, the report highlights the reduction in state aid in 2011 for family planning and the resulting closure of nine of the 32 women’s clinics in the region.
“With these cutbacks and the closing of clinics, (medical) attention for women has become an issue linked to human rights,” Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, executive director at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, told Efe.
Her group conducted the study in partnership with the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The current situation in the Rio Grande Valley makes it very difficult for many women to get access to health care.
These limitations translate - the report says - into a lack of prevention for uterine cancer and elevated percentages of teenage or unwanted pregnancies, as well as high levels of gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Women who live in the border counties have a 31 percent greater chance of dying from uterine cancer than those who live farther to the south, according to data from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
Moreover, in Cameron County the ratio of deaths from uterine cancer in Hispanics is double the average.
Gonzalez-Rojas notes that this cancer “can almost always be prevented and, if women had regular access to their doctor, the chances would be greatly reduced.”
Particularly in the Valley, there are numerous “colonias” - or shantytowns - where the roughly 400,000 residents often live without running water, electricity, sewage facilities or paved roads.
There are thousands of Valley residents who don’t have their own vehicles or who cannot afford the gasoline to get to distant clinics.
Others, because they are undocumented, cannot run the risk of traveling miles to the north and running into an immigration checkpoint.