On a patch of browning grass just 100 steps from the McAllen, Texas, headquarters of Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo County stands an eye-level banner featuring an adorable white infant on either side.
Wide-eyed and pensive, baby number one grasps an adult’s fingers while gazing toward the familiar pro-life tagline, “Take my hand not my life…” Baby number two is sleeping, thumb in mouth and naked except for a jumbo red ribbon tied around its torso. “Life. The Greatest Gift of All!” the caption announces.
The placement of this PVC guilt trip is ironic. While the Planned Parenthood network is the largest provider of publicly funded family planning services along the Texas/Mexico border, none of its locations perform abortions.
To “get your period back,” as some locals describe it, you’ll have to cross the border for relatively cheap, maybe-safe, over-the-counter drugs that might trigger a miscarriage if you take it early enough in your pregnancy, at the right dosage and at the correct intervals. Or, if you have the cash, credit, or private insurance coverage, you can book an appointment across town or two cities away, at one of two private abortion providers in the entire Rio Grande Valley.
Another bit of irony: Thanks to the anti-choice public health policies advanced by the state’s Republican leadership, Hidalgo County’s poor and uninsured women have fewer sources of the birth control and exams they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
“I would say that 85 to 90 percent of our clients live below the federal poverty line. They’re uninsured and many of them have two or three children and don’t want any more,” says Patricio Gonzalez, the network’s CEO. “Basic healthcare access is just very bad here so the women don’t get [regular] screenings for STIs or cancers, and when they do get them they often need more diagnostic services because they’ve delayed care. You’ll hear them say, ‘I don’t have $60 or $100 for this lab test, or this ultrasound or this mammogram.’ “