Fierce

October 3rd, 1977: Remembering Rosie Jiménez On the Day She Died From An Unsafe Abortion

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On October 2nd, the Women’s March took to the streets of Washington, D.C. This time, women were marching with reproductive rights as the primary cause in their hearts. On September 1st, the United States Supreme Court declined to comment on Texas’s new SB 8 law–a law that makes it illegal for a woman to terminate her pregnancy after six weeks. This isn’t just a fight for abortion rights–it’s a fight for the health and safety of American women, period. And there is very real history that proves why safe abortion access for all women is of dire importance.

On Sunday, October 3rd, 1977, Rosaura “Rosie” Jiménez died after getting a botched abortion in McAllen, Texas. She was denied a safe abortion because of the Hyde Amendment.

The Hyde Amendment is a federal law that prohibits the use of Medicaid to fund abortions. Rosie Jiménez was the mother of a four-year-old daughter and lived off of less than $100 a month. Like so many women, Jiménez didn’t have the funds to pay for a safe abortion out-of-pocket. So instead, on September 26th, Jiménez paid an untrained midwife to terminate her pregnancy. A week later, Rosie was dead.

Rosie Jiménez had terminated pregnancies before with the help of physicians–but her procedures had always been paid for by Medicaid. After the Hyde Amendment passed, Jiménez no longer had that option. According to the book Rosie: The Investigation of a Wrongful Death by Ellen Frankfort, Jiménez first traveled to Mexico to get a hormone injection that was supposed to induce a miscarriage. When that didn’t work, she booked an appointment with an underground midwife.

The next day, Rosie Jiménez began hemorrhaging and vomiting. Her friends rushed her to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with a bacterial infection in her uterus. Doctors performed a hysterectomy on her in a last ditch effort to keep her alive, but it was too late–the infection had already spread through her body. Rosie Jiménez died from organ failure on October 3rd, 1977.

Rosie Jiménez’s death sparked a nation-wide debate about the ethics of the Hyde Amendment and she became a symbol of the dangers of limiting a woman’s access to a safe abortion.

Rosie Jiménez was the prime example of whom the Hyde Amendment was designed to hurt: a poor woman of color who didn’t have the means to pay for her own abortion. One of twelve siblings, Jiménez was the Mexican-American daughter of migrant farmworkers. Despite her humble upbringing, Jiménez was determined to give her daughter the life she never had.

Still, she struggled, living on welfare and working part-time to support her daughter while she attended school to become a teacher. At the time of her death, she only needed to be in school for six more months to get her teaching credentials.

Now, in 2021, women face the same hurdles as Rosie did to access safe abortions in the U.S. In some ways, it’s worse than ever.

As reproductive rights activist Winnie Ye wrote on Twitter: “The Hyde Amendment pushes abortion care further out of reach for people who need it, especially women of color. Rosie Jimenez was the 1st woman to die because she was denied an affordable & safe abortion. #BeBoldEndHyde because no one should be denied care because they are poor.”

And now, since September 1st, the struggle for safe abortion access has become even more dire. In Rosie Jiménez’s home state of Texas, abortions are now illegal past six weeks–a time when many women don’t even know that they’re pregnant. Which begs the question: how many more women will have to die before America gives them full and unfettered control over their own bodies?

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