And of course, there is a further risk: in the absence of safe abortions, more people may choose to carry out their pregnancies to term, increasing the risk of children ending up in foster care or adoption services. In Texas, children in foster care or adoption services are at significant risk due to the religious nature of those services. It is worth remembering that the United States is the only country that has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Not only are children of color over-represented in foster care, but most of the agencies in charge of placing these children in homes are religious, and often place LGBTQ+ children in situations or families that violate their dignity and integrity.
The Power of Resistance
However, it is precisely in this time of outrageous attacks on our most basic rights that communities like the Rio Grande Valley also show the power of resistance and the ways in which we can organize hope. There are two examples that are worth highlighting. The first one was the July 2021 successful defeat of an ordinance in the city of Edinburg, TX. The ordinance attempted to create a sanctuary city for the “unborn” in Edinburg. This was an important victory, and one that was organized almost overnight.
It mattered because local activists considered this to be a test case. Edinburg city officials probably did not expect such protest, because in their view the proposed ordinance would not really have an effect on Edinburg, as there was no abortion clinic in the city. But if successful, it would have paved the way for neighboring McAllen to approve a similar ordinance. Local activists, especially, La Frontera Fund, knew that it was crucial to win this battle. And they certainly won. This was such an important victory, ahead of the changes the following 12 months would bring, including SB8 and the overturning of Roe v. Wade, perhaps the two most devastating events on our basic human rights.
Lizelle Herrera could have been forgotten in a South Texas jail. On April 2022, before Roe v. Wade had been overturned, the 26-year old was arrested and placed into Starr County Detention Center on a $500,000 bond. The county sheriff’s office stated the reasons for her detention as: “intentionally and knowingly [causing] the death of an individual by self-induced abortion.” Once again, the resourceful and quick reaction of local organizers who immediately went to protest outside the center and mobilized extensively succeeded in freeing Herrera. Local reproductive justice activists used social media to accomplish both victories and gained national attention in doing so.
For us to ensure that abortions are safe, legal, and accessible, we need to make sure that we are centering Black and Brown people, working-class folks, people with disabilities, young people, immigrants, and queer and transgender people in our work. We will be the most impacted by abortion bans, and we will also be the ones leading the fight for liberation. Struggles for body autonomy and liberation have historically been inextricably linked with struggles for racial and sexual liberation.
Communities like the RGV need to be brought to the forefront of the national reproductive justice agenda. This is down to the ideas, experiences and particular ways in which our community is impacted and able to organize in especially challenging circumstances. The fight for reproductive justice continues in the RGV and grassroots organizers are considering ways in which they can continue their work in an extremely hostile environment.
One way of doing this, besides continuing with the limited work that can be done in the current legal environment, is to establish counter-institutional power in the community. The group South Texans 4 Reproductive Justice, a volunteer-run group, that among other activities used to escort people seeking abortions at the recently closed down Whole Woman’s Health Clinic in McAllen, are currently fundraising to buy the clinic building to create a community center that will educate, promote and create a safe space for emergency contraception distribution and delivery, as well as building community power.
While the reversal of Roe has been a major setback for the reproductive justice movement in the Valley, the fight for liberation is far from over. The community’s outpouring of support for La Frontera Fund and South Texans for Reproductive Justice’s efforts shows otherwise. More than ever, more people are interested in and committed to joining the movement. The RGV has always been resilient when faced with adversity and will continue to be so.