The women who visit Lucy Felix at her advocacy center are lately faced with a slate of difficult choices: risk deportation to drive to a clinic, cross the nearby border into Mexico for a risky abortion or keep an unwanted, unplanned pregnancy to term.
Since Texas lawmakers passed new restrictions on abortion clinics last year, the number of clinics in the Rio Grande Valley that perform the service has dropped from two to zero, forcing women to drive more than 300 miles roundtrip to other cities for services or attempt riskier procedures across the border.
In the Valley, the poorest and neediest part of the state, the law is crippling women's rights to abortions, said Felix, a Brownsville-based field coordinator with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.
"They have to make really drastic decisions," she said of the women she talks to. "They don't have the same access and the same freedom other women have."
Under Texas House Bill 2, doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at area hospitals, abortions past 20 weeks are banned, and abortion clinics must have ambulatory surgical centers. The law came on the heels of an earlier legislative action that slashed more than $70 million from the state's family planning budget, which helps fund clinics such as Planned Parenthood in Texas.