Immigrant women aren't getting access to health care due to fears

Monday, July 29, 2019
The Hill logo, which features their name spelled out in white letters on a blue square background. Posted to accompany the opinion article, Immigrant women aren't getting access to health care due to fears.

At the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health we encourage our Latinx community — many of whom are immigrants — to embrace their power and fight for access to health care in their communities. But for many of the people we work with, fulfilling their basic human right to health care is not easy. The Trump administration seemingly tries every opportunity to scapegoat, brutalize and instill fear in our immigrant communities — the challenge to access health care is greater than ever.

Fear of raids from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and family separation policies has a chilling effect in many immigrant communities. Many immigrants are avoiding reproductive health care for fear of deportation. This is especially concerning because for many women with low incomes who rely on family planning programs such as Title X, their OB-GYN appointments are their only regular visit to the doctor and an entry point for a range of preventative care from checking blood pressure levels to screening for breast and cervical cancer. 

Sadly, their fears are based on lived experiences. Take the case of Blanca Borrego. In 2015, Blanca, an undocumented immigrant and mother of three, was arrested in her gynecologist’s office. Blanca went to her doctor for a cyst that caused her abdominal pain. She left in handcuffs, facing the risk of being deported. 

In states like Texas, we have seen an increase in ICE officers at clinics and hospitals. Our activists have received calls, heard stories and spoken with people in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas who are afraid to attend their medical appointments due to the presence of Border Patrol along their route to the doctor and who see ICE parked outside of their health clinics.

Pregnant people who are worried about deportation are also skipping out on prenatal appointments and many are waiting until they are in labor to go to the doctor. As a result, life-threatening conditions such as preeclampsia are not being diagnosed until patients experience seizures. 

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