For years, the Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo County have served the women of their region by providing physicals, pap smears, mammograms, screening for cancer, HIV and sexually transmitted infections and treatment for diabetes, but not abortions.
But CEO Patricio Gonzales says the stigma of being associated with abortions led to their board's decision to change the group's name to Access Esperanza, Inc. and split fully with Planned Parenthood.
"We never had performed abortions, but our name was affiliated with performing abortion services, so that’s what the state did not want,” said Esperanza CEO Patricio Gonzales.
In 2011, the state legislature dropped out of a federal Medicaid program geared towards women’s health care and created the Texas Women’s Health Program, which cut off funding for clinics even loosely affiliated with Planned Parenthood and other clinic groups performing abortions. This resulted in the closure of 76 clinics statewide.
Gonzales said two to three years ago the clinics in Hidalgo County joined a lawsuit against the state for being excluded from state funding.
“We felt that some of these policies were not fair and we could access the court system and get us back into to these services," Gonzales said. "And we tried the legal system for almost three years and then finally the district court system said, 'you’re not eligible for the Texas Women’s Health Program.' ”
Planned Parenthood still intends to keep a presence in the Rio Grande Valley with clinics in Brownsville and Harlingen.