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Even with Roe v. Wade in place, low-income women struggle to get abortions in Texas

Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

If the ultrasound showed fetal cardiac activity, it would be too late for Krystal to legally get an abortion in Texas.

The Rio Grande Valley is home to 1.3 million people, 90% of them Latino. A third of the population lives in poverty, and because Texas opted out of Medicaid expansion, many don't have access to healthcare.

The patients at Whole Woman's Health of McAllen, 10 miles north of Mexico, are typical of those seeking abortions nationwide: low-income women of color.

The clinic operated under a different name for more than three decades until 2004, when it became part of Whole Woman's Health. The network of independent clinics succeeded in persuading the Supreme Court to throw out some of Texas' abortion restrictions in 2016 but failed in its more recent challenge of the "heartbeat law."

The McAllen clinic has struggled to find local doctors willing to perform abortions.

Cushing flies in from Central California twice a month for three days at a time. On the first day, she performs ultrasounds. Those who qualify usually get their abortions on the second or third day.

 

She said that since the latest Texas law took effect, she has had to turn away about 40% of the women seeking abortions.

The new law has sown enormous confusion among her patients. Some call or arrive at the clinic unsure whether abortion is still legal in Texas or whether having an abortion would put their lives at risk.

It's a striking contrast to Cushing's practice in Central California. There she also serves a largely poor Latino population, but private insurance and Medi-Cal are required to cover the procedure.

"I don't have patients who say, 'Am I going to die?'" she said. "But I do in Texas."

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