Ida, originally from Reynosa, Mexico, has been living in a colonia near Donna, Texas, for 10 years. Ida is currently in a relationship but she supports her two children, ages 7 and 17, on her own.
Since the birth of her son seven years ago, she always went to her local Planned Parenthood health center for her contraceptive supplies and Pap tests. “About a year ago I went to Planned Parenthood for a checkup, but I was told that their funding had run out.” She managed to obtain a year’s supply of birth control pills, but these were about to run out in one week’s time. She worries about getting pregnant. “Right now I’m not prepared for another child…my financial situation is rough, pretty rough…I don’t know how to get more pills because they charge for them now, they have no funds for that, no one does now.”
Ida also has human papillomavirus (HPV), a key risk factor for cervical cancer, and has had surgery to remove cervical cysts in the past. Now, she cannot afford to get a Pap test that doctors told her she needed every six months to check on her condition.
“It’s $60 for a checkup. I thought, either I pay $60 or I buy food for my children.”
She would like to go to Mexico for health care but is not legally permitted to cross the border on her temporary permit. “Being unable to see a doctor has me worried sick. I’m so afraid of the virus coming back. Last time it wasn’t cancerous, but I’m afraid that if it does come back it will be worse, because I’m not having regular checkups.”
Fear is a part of Ida’s daily life. “The truth is that I’m afraid of two things: of getting cancer because the virus, the papillomavirus, is still there and it could come back. I’m also afraid of… Right now I’m not prepared for another child. I have only two, I know it doesn’t seem a lot, but my financial situation is rough, pretty rough… I have a trailer, a tiny mobile home, I pay $350 a month for the lot it sits on. So either I pay the rent and give my children a place to live or I have a mammogram, a Pap test, or contraceptives. It’s one or the other, but not both.”
Ida has part-time employment and in her spare time she works as a volunteer promotora with the Texas Latina Advocacy Network where she educates women in her community about the impact of funding cuts. “All women here, myself especially, want that assistance back. I know that nothing is free, of course not. We came to the United States to work. We don’t want things given out for free. We just need them to be reasonably priced so we can afford hem—reasonably, depending on how much you make.”
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 Ida 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.