The Lone Star state jumped into the spotlight this week – a movie-worthy filibuster by Wendy Davis, a flood of demonstrators taking to the capitol, and a ramped up war of words between Texas Republicans and Democrats.
At the root of all of this drama is a Republican-sponsored abortion bill. If passed, the bill would make Texas one of the most restrictive states by outlawing abortions beyond twenty weeks of fertilization, decreasing the number of abortion clinics from thirty-seven to five because of prohibitively costly building requirements, and tightening the guidelines for the administration of abortion drugs.
The restrictions on abortions are just the latest in a series of measures shrinking the availability of healthcare for women in Texas. In 2011 the Texas legislature pulled funding from any clinics that had ties to abortion services or providers, even though public monies would not go to funding such procedures. The 2011 legislature also went a step further by cutting the funding of non-abortion affiliated clinics. These measures ended up closing 56 of the 117 women’s health clinics around the state, clinics that were the most likely to provide well-women care to low-income women.
Then, to add icing to the cake, Governor Rick Perry has rejected additional Medicaid funds under Obamacare. In other words, the state of Texas has decreased the availability of healthcare options for women while making these fewer options more costly for lower income women.
Texas has become the latest battleground on the larger Republican War on Women. However, because of the state’s demographics Latinas are disproportionately in the cross-hairs of this war.
After California, Texas has the largest Hispanic population, 38%. This population is also the fastest growing as a result of Latinas having the highest birth rates with half of all babies in Texas being born to Latinas. Based on this growth, it’s not surprising that Latinos in Texas are on track to becoming the largest group within the next decade.
But it also happens to be that Latinos in Texas are the largest population of the uninsured. Six out of ten Latinos in the state do not have insurance. Texans in general have one of the country’s lowest rates of insurance, twenty-four percent, but Texan Latinos are uninsured at the rate of thirty-eight percent.
Some of this problem could be eased by Obamacare’s expansion of insurance to individuals below the 138% poverty level. However, as I’ve already mentioned, Texas is one of the fourteen states that has dug in its heels and rejected the additional federal funding. Even though Texans are the most in need of insurance, they won’t be getting it.
The growth of the Latino population, their greater likelihood of not being insured, and the growing restrictions on healthcare put Latino families and Latinas in particular in a precarious position.
The healthcare battle here in Texas is a Latino issue.
On its face, this issue may not be as ethnically targeted as issues of voter ID, resdistricting, or immigration. However, the demographic profile of Latinos in Texas makes healthcare an especially pressing interest.
Female elected officials, Latinas and non-Latinas, have come out in ferocious defense of women’s rights to healthcare access. State senators Wendy Davis and Leticia van de Putte along with Representative Jessica Farrar and others in the House have drawn a line in the sand and not backed down.
However, going forward, this line in the sand must be backed up by Latina voters.
The War on Tejanas cannot be fought with Generals alone, the troops must also show up come the 2014 election.
Victoria Defrancesco Soto
Saturday, 6 July 2013