Monique Jimenez, 48, holds a portrait of her mother Rosie, who died in 1977 from an infection days after getting an unsafe abortion. Her death followed the passage of the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal funds for abortion care.

Texas woman died after an unsafe abortion years ago. Her daughter fears same thing may happen again

Updated 9:56 AM ET, Mon October 11, 2021

McAllen, Texas (CNN)Outside the only abortion clinic in the border city of McAllen, Texas, a debate has played out for years. Some people pray and beg patients to not go inside as some volunteers escort patients to the entrance. But none of them were there when Rosie Jimenez died just across the street more than 40 years ago.

As thousands of people marched to the Supreme Court in support of reproductive rights earlier this month, Rosie's photo was displayed in banners and her name was repeated by crowds at vigils and rallies across Texas, Arizona, California and Oregon. In McAllen, there was a defiant mood. Activists held a rally about eight blocks from the clinic that stands across the street from city hall.
The building at the edge of the city's bustling downtown shopping district -- where Jimenez died and likely received health care more than four decades ago -- was demolished in the early 1990s to make room for the city hall.
Rosie was 27 years old when she contracted a deadly infection in 1977 after she sought a midwife, who was not licensed to perform abortions, to terminate her pregnancy. She couldn't afford a physician in South Texas and the Hyde Amendment prevented Medicaid from covering the cost of the procedure. For decades, she has been a symbol for abortion rights advocates, inspiring them to draft legislation and focus their work on helping underserved communities — even as one of the strictest abortion bans remains in effect in Texas and the Supreme Court is set to hear a direct challenge to Roe v Wade.
In McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley -- a mainly rural region in Texas -- where there are high levels of poverty and a large population of Mexican Americans, advocates say they want to make Rosie's story known because poor people of color are often those experiencing the dire consequences of abortion restrictions.
A mural with vibrant colors is painted on the side of McAllen's abortion clinic. Brown women of multiple hues are portrayed helping each other in a lush green field. Light beams from their hands. The words "justice, compassion, empowerment and dignity" are neatly scrawled across the top of the mural.
The clinic serves McAllen and numerous Texas counties south of San Antonio. Many of the patients are undocumented and a procedure in McAllen costs up to $800. The cost is considerably higher than in other cities and women often struggle with the added costs that include loss of wages, transportation and child care.
A federal appeals court on Friday night put a temporary hold on a judge's order that had blocked Texas' six-week abortion ban.
The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals acted swiftly to grant Texas' request for an administrative stay of the order, which it had filed Friday afternoon. The state's move came after a US district judge just days earlier issued a sweeping order blocking the law at the request of the US Justice Department, which had brought a legal challenge last month.
What is constant is that the ongoing legal battles don't lessen the decades-long anguish and ripple effects of Rosie's death.
"Rosie Jimenez should still be here but she's not because of the anti-abortion restrictions that politicians have been passing to keep us from being able to live the lives that we want," said Ana Rodriguez, a campaigns director with Texas Equal Access Fund and The Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity.
While Rosie has inspired many people to fight for abortion rights, her story is more personal for Monique Jimenez. It disrupted the course of her life.
Monique was only four years old when her mother died, and the memories of those early years with her mom are sparse.
When Monique turned 18, she was ready to start a new life in college, at the same place where her mother spent the last few years of her life. That's when one of her aunts told her it was time to finally learn something her family had kept from her.
"Your mom died from an abortion," the 48-year-old recalls her aunt saying as she gave her a book with her mother's face and name on the cover.

Who was Rosie?

Monique has spent years filling in the gaps with stories from relatives and through her own research. Many times she's had to debunk misinformation about her mother that has been circulated by strangers over time, she says.
And she wants people to know the joy her mother brought to her family and that she was loved.
Rosie Jimenez was born in McAllen to a large Mexican American family. She had a total of 11 siblings, some of whom died at a young age and included her twin sister. Her parents were migrant workers. As the family grew, they leaned into Rosie's mother's skill for cooking and eventually opened a Mexican restaurant.
The young Rosie had a caring spirit and loved dancing. She spent many summer days going to the beach in South Texas, enjoyed dressing up with wigs and styled her outfits with different handbags.
Rosie Jimenez receives her GED diploma during a ceremony in McAllen, Texas. This is an undated photo.
She had big dreams and wanted to go to college, her daughter, Monique, says. Although Rosie didn't graduate high school, she earned her GED and attended the then-Pan American University.
She became the only person among her siblings to go to college. She dreamed of becoming a special education teacher but was only a sophomore when she died.
"She was strong and she knew what she wanted," Monique says.
Throughout the years, Monique got to know her mother through photographs and listened to family members when they reminisced about their sister, cousin and friend. Rosie became a single mother in her 20s. The photos that her daughter keeps in a photo album show her wide smile during her baby shower and Monique's first birthdays.
Rosie Jimenez feeds her daughter Monique, left, in an undated photo.

The year that changed everything

In September 1977, Rosie could not afford to go to a doctor to get an abortion and instead went to a midwife who was not licensed to perform abortions. She decided to go to the hospital after bleeding for several days after the procedure but didn't tell the nurses and physicians about the abortion at first.
"Maybe she was afraid, maybe she was embarrassed, it's hard to say what a person is going through or what are their thoughts," Monique says. "You have to think '77 was a different time, people were not very receptive of a single mother being pregnant."
As the days passed, Rosie became more sick. She had an infection that spread throughout her body and her organs later started shutting down.
When her siblings and parents, many who no longer lived in the Rio Grande Valley, went to the hospital, Rosie had been intubated and her body was swollen. She couldn't talk because of the intubation, but they could tell that she wanted to tell them something.
"They said they gave her a piece of paper and they gave her a pen and she wrote my name on the paper," Monique says. "They said 'don't worry about it, Rosie. We're going to take care of Monique.'"
Rosie never returned home to see her daughter. She died on October 3, 1977 and was buried a few days later.

A life full of questions

Monique, who now lives in Houston, talks with such candor about her mother. In her mind, there's no doubt that her mother loved her.
"People have asked me this question: 'Are you angry because your mother had an abortion?," Monique says. "They ask me that and I