(Opinion) Access to Reproductive Healthcare Priority in Low-Income Areas

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For many women in low-income areas, access to reproductive health care is one of the most important factors in maintaining some financial stability. For women in South Phoenix, this opportunity is now gone.

The only Planned Parenthood in South Phoenix, a primarily low-income area, has permanently closed its doors, and the next closest clinics providing abortion and family planning care are at least 20 minutes away.

For many, this may seem like a short distance to travel, especially to women who live in states with no clinics.

However, for a woman of low income, this distance can present a whole new challenge. Without her own reliable transportation, a woman may be forced to rely on public transportation- and even this can be out of reach financially for some women. This is only one of the many barriers in place for women. In low-income areas seeking health and reproductive care.

As discussion surrounding the future of the Supreme Court continues following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the future of Roe v. Wade, and of access to reproductive health as a whole, has been called into question nationwide.

Amy Coney Barrett, recently appointed to the Supreme Court, has a record of opposing both the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade. Repealing the Affordable Care Act would majorly restrict access to health care for millions of women nationwide and repealing Roe v. Wade would do the same for access to safe abortions.

Women’s health clinics and access to important health and reproductive care has opened doors for millions of women across the country. However, in many low-income communities, this is not the reality.

Patricia Balcazar Mendoza, the maternity care coordinator at Phoenix VA Hospital, explains why reliable health and reproductive care is necessary for women of low incomes.

“Let’s say we have a 22-year-old female… she gets pregnant, she doesn’t have any insurance, and she’s not on any type of birth control, because birth control… although it’s not expensive for some people, it may be very expensive for other women,” said Balcazar Mendoza. “If she gets pregnant, that can deny her the opportunity to go to school, to get a good job… because now she has a second life to deal with.”

A woman’s financial situation can pose a much more serious threat to a woman’s health that what is often acknowledged.

Planned Parenthood has many individuals on their Facebook page expressing their gratitude for the clinic’s services.

“Thank you, Planned Parenthood,” Tena Parish said. “That was my only medical care during teen years and early adult with no insurance.”

Parish is not alone in having struggled to maintain secure health care. The American Bar Association reports that “in order to stay financially secure, women routinely forgo needed care… Roughly 1 in 4 women reported in 2017 that they delayed or went without care due to costs.”

Balcazar Mendoza explains the devasting impact that going without necessary health care can have on women.

“If they come down with any type of venereal disease, they can’t pay for it, and then it kind of escalates,” said Balcazar Mendoza. “We had a 25-year-old who came in who hadn’t had a pap smear in five years… and she had full-blown cancer because of the HPV.”

With the health and livelihoods of some of the most financially vulnerable in both South Phoenix and the nation on the line, the decision regarding Coney Barrett’s confirmation in the upcoming weeks may set in motion an attack on women’s health and reproductive care with the potential to leave millions of women without access to the care they may desperately rely on.

“Providing health care for women is the best thing our country could do,” said Balcazar Mendoza. “But right now, we’re under attack.”





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