Rosie Jimenez died of complications from an illegal abortion on October of 1977 in McAllen, Texas a little over a year after the Hyde Amendment was passed. The Hyde Amendment is a dangerous ban on federal funding in the form of Medicaid for abortions except in the case of rape, incest, or if carrying the pregnancy to term would endanger the mother’s life. This type of legislation disproportionately affects people with low incomes and especially women of color, young women, and immigrants. The amendment also has been expanded in some states with the recent uptick in anti-abortion legislation. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, as of June 2019, thirty-four states and the District of Columbia follow the Hyde Amendment, while South Dakota restricts abortion funding above and beyond the federal standard and only pays for abortions when doing so is necessary to protect the woman’s life. There are also exceptions to several states’ abortion-funding policies including if the funding request is outside of a court order (Arizona) or if the request is not approved by the governor (Iowa). On the other side, just fifteen states fund all or most medically necessary abortions. These states are Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.
For Rosie Jimenez, a single mother working and going to school to support her young daughter, the Hyde Amendment regulation on abortion funding made receiving a necessary abortion from a licensed professional impossible. After traveling to Mexico for hormone injections which were intended to induce a miscarriage but failed, Rosie was forced to seek care from a midwife known to provide abortions secretly and inexpensively. The day after Rosie’s procedure, she developed a fever accompanied by vomiting and hemorrhaging – she had contracted a bacterial infection as a result of her abortion. After a week in the ICU, Rosie Jimenez succumbed to her infection and died from organ failure.
Rosie’s example shows exactly what happens when the government restricts women’s access to critical healthcare. In 1976, as today, legislation that makes it more difficult for pregnant people to receive family planning and abortion care disproportionately affects the most disadvantaged groups including women of color and low-income people such as students and immigrants. The Hyde Amendment is still at work today and has been reinforced by national legislation such as the Title X Gag Rule as well as state-wide policies like those passed or proposed in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Georgia, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Utah, Iowa, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Florida.
In light of these recent advances to limit access to reproductive healthcare, it is essential that we not forget the lessons of the women who came before us, fought for us, and ultimately died for us. Rosie put her life and the safety of her daughter in danger for medical care that should be available to all women. If we forget that, we leave ourselves vulnerable to history repeating itself.