Immigrants Are Literally Swimming to Mexico for Reproductive Healthcare

Let’s talk about what immigration reform means for migrant women’s rights. According to a policy analysis by the Latina Institute (via this excellent Dissent piece) “the majority of undocumented immigrant women do not have access to affordable health insurance,” and “immigrant women are less likely to receive adequate reproductive health care, including cervical and breast cancer screening and treatment, family planning services, HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, accurate sex education and culturally and linguistically competent services.” Even immigrants that have green cards usually wait five years to qualify for basic Medicaid programs.

Conservative pundits love to claim that immigrants are leeches on our society, but immigrant workers tell a very different story; one woman literally swam back to Mexico to get the healthcare she needed. From Dissent:

At a time when more American women are asking why they “can’t have it all,” immigrant women endure a much crueler work-life balance: mostly poor, often without papers, and largely Latina, they’re exposed daily to chronic poverty, the threat of deportation, and sexual trauma. The struggle is inscribed on their bodies and reproductive destinies.

In contrast to the stereotype of migrants sponging off of welfare, in some border communities women are driven to look southward as a last resort for reproductive health care. “Immigrant women in Texas tell us that accessing birth control, cervical cancer screenings, and other reproductive care is so difficult here in the United States, they’re forced to cross into Mexico in order to get the care they need,” says Kimberly Inez McGuire, Associate Director of Government Relations and Public Affairs at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “One woman told us about how she literally swam across the Rio Grande to get access to reproductive care.”

“For issues of sexual and reproductive health, immigrant women often find themselves doubly excluded from a health care infrastructure that degrades all poor women, unable to access or afford contraceptive and abortion services, prenatal care, or treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. Sexual violence or coercion by employers, inhumane conditions at detention centers, and a lack of legal recourse against abusers plague women with a precarious legal status. The dignity of reproductive sovereignty is a privilege that the low-wage economy forecloses for millions of immigrant women.”

Next they’re going to make us dive for it.

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