by Mary Tuma
The mostly low-income women of the South Texas area are forced to travel up to 300 miles roundtrip to Corpus Christi, where the closest provider can be found. And that's, of course, if they can secure reliable transportation and afford the time off work or childcare, as more than one-third of RGV residents live below the federal poverty line. But none of these barriers appeared to evoke compassion from the notoriously conservative Judge Edith Jones, who replied:
“You know how long that takes in Texas at 75 miles an hour?” asked Jones, according to the Houston Chronicle. “That’s a particularly flat highway.”
Jones' insensitive remark highlights how out of touch she must be with the harsh reality facing women who live in Texas border towns. A 2013 report by Nuestro Texas analyzed reproductive health in the RGV, finding barriers to access "profound and wide-ranging." Aside from the deep rooted systemic barriers, such as poverty, geographic isolation and fear and insecurity about their immigration status, Valley women are forced to deal with greatly diminished health services. Some 32 family planning clinics in the Rio Grande Valley have closed over the last two years, leaving many women without affordable health care.
The report notes, "limited availability of public transportation and the high cost and difficult logistics of private transportation," excaberates these problems. For instance, only the two largest cities—Brownsville and McAllen— have municipal bus systems. The study documented several RGV women, like Esmeralda from Mission, who shared their hardships in obtaining health care. A mother of five children under age 11, Esmeralda says, “Gas is expensive and transportation is a struggle. Now that I’m widowed, it’s even worse.” Unable to secure employment because of child care responsibilities, a doctor's visit is "simply too much" after factoring in cost of appointment, gas money or bus fare and paying for childcare. Perhaps Jones would be well served to meet Esmeralda or take a trip down to the border herself.
On the other hand, her comments may not be the most shocking considering Jones has a reputation for siding against reproductive rights in Texas and has even alluded to overturning of Roe v Wade, as the Current previously reported.