Undocumented immigrants weigh on deportation, abortion in Texas
- Abortion seekers in Texas traveled out of state to obtain the procedure.
- But some undocumented immigrants are stranded because of US border patrol outposts across the state.
- Undocumented immigrants in Texas will likely have to choose between deportation and abortion.
Ever since Texas rolled out its restrictive SB8 abortion law, Texans have flocked to neighboring states for abortions. But this option does not exist for a large number of people.
Undocumented immigrants and people without proper documentation were particularly affected by the law, which entered into force on September 1.
The new legislation prohibits anyone from having an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, a stage at which most people do not yet know they are pregnant. The law has forced some abortion providers in the state to refuse patients who request the procedure.
And patients who have so far been able to travel out of state to circumvent the law could generally be of higher socioeconomic status. Undocumented people, say reproductive rights experts, have more difficulty obtaining an abortion out of state than other groups.
Undocumented people in the southern part of Texas cannot exit the state due to inland immigration checkpoints, located approximately 100 miles from the U.S.-US border. Mexico. At these checkpoints, U.S. customs and border protection officials can request identification to prove citizenship. According to Dr Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, President and CEO of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), people who do not have proper documentation risk being deported.
Additionally, low-income people who may not have the proper documents, such as a valid driver’s license or US passport, cannot leave the state.
“Whatever your stance on immigration, by anyone’s standards, these are citizens who have every right to be here, but who have never needed this type of official identification.” , said Ragsdale. “And now they’re up a stream too.”
The NAF, which created a designated hotline for callers from Texas after SB8 went through, “hears the poorest patients with the fewest resources,” Ragsdale told Insider.
This includes the large population of undocumented immigrants who reside in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.
About 1.7 million undocumented migrants live in Texas, according to estimates from the Migration Policy Institute. Hundreds of thousands of people live in the Rio Grande Valley, which has been characterized as one of the most unhealthy areas in the United States due to a combination of high poverty and low education rates.
SB8 forces people to make tough choices
For weeks, the NAF responded to calls from overwhelmed Texans seeking abortions, including undocumented patients in desperate need of options.
“It’s just routinely, day in and day out, that people panic and despair, and also angry,” Ragsdale said.
A woman who called the hotline said she had a job and young children she couldn’t turn away from. “You could charter me a private jet and I wouldn’t be able to travel out of state for this care at this time,” the woman said, according to Ragsdale.
People face such competing priorities because SB8 has complicated the way they think and go about getting reproductive care. As a result, they’re going to have to make tough choices and determine whether an abortion outweighs other things like the risk of deportation or losing their job, experts told Insider.
Already people have made these difficult choices. Some patients have crossed state borders to have abortions, said Dr Kristina Tocce, medical director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.
“I have seen patients who have expressed such fear, terror at the prospect of walking such long distances and being stopped and questioned,” she told Insider, saying the patients had to seriously consider the risks.
“What if I can’t answer these questions correctly and I’m in trouble?” She added, recalling some of the concerns people have expressed. “That added fear of having to interact with law enforcement on this trip is so difficult.”
The process is also stressful for out-of-state physicians who perform abortions.
With patients in Texas traveling long distances to have an abortion – either driving for hours to get to a clinic or flying – doctors need to “make sure patients get in and out on time so that we don’t sabotage their flight plan, ”Tocce said.
“This is something that you generally don’t deal with when providing services.”