October 3 marks 40 years since Rosie Jimenez—a Texan, mother and college student from the South Texas town of McAllen—died from an infection following an unsafe abortion. The federal Hyde Amendment—first passed in 1976 and each year since—prohibited Rosie’s Medicaid insurance from paying for her abortion, so instead Rosie sought out the only procedure she could afford–and it led to her death just days later. She left behind a 4-year-old daughter and was studying to be a teacher.
Rosie wanted a better future for herself and her daughter. So committed was she to their future that a $700 scholarship check was found in her purse when she died. She could have used her college money for safe abortion care at a clinic, but she was saving it for her education—her way of escaping poverty.
Rosie was the first known person to die after the Hyde Amendment took effect in 1977, and since then Hyde has denied abortion coverage for people enrolled in Medicaid as well as federal employees, women in the military, Peace Corps volunteers, disabled women, residents of Washington D.C., Native women who use the Indian Health Service, and women held in federal prisons and immigration detention centers. More than 30 states have enacted their own versions of Hyde, and 10, including Texas, go as far as to ban private insurance coverage as well. Women should not be forced to choose between covering basic expenses such as rent or child care and accessing the health care that they need and deserve.
Rosie’s memory lives on 40 years later in the tireless work of abortion funds and reproductive justice groups across the country, who fight daily for abortion access for all in their communities. In Rosie’s hometown of McAllen, South Texans for Reproductive Justice organizes clinic escorts so that patients can safely access the care they need without harassment from malicious anti-abortion protesters. This week, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas was honored to join STRJ in remembering Rosie at her gravesite in McAllen, followed by a dinner reception with the fierce Rio Grande Valley activists leading the reproductive justice movement in the region.
It’s long past time for the Hyde Amendment to be stripped from the books for good, as well as state laws that restrict coverage for abortion care. As we remember Rosie and honor her memory, join us mobilizing in your community and striving for BOLD action to end abortion coverage bans.