Amy Hagstrom Miller: Today, We Made History

I am beyond elated. Every day Whole Woman’s Health treats our patients with compassion, respect and dignity – and with this historic decision, today the Supreme Court did the same. We’re thrilled that justice was served and our clinics stay open.

After years of fighting heartless, anti-abortion Texas politicians who would seemingly stop at nothing to push abortion out of reach, I want everyone to understand: you don’t mess with Texas, you don’t mess with Whole Woman’s health, and you don’t mess with this beautiful, powerful movement of people dedicated to reproductive health, rights, and justice.

Three years ago, Texas politicians passed HB 2, a regressive law aimed directly at women who have decided to end a pregnancy and those of us who provide their care. With no legitimate medical justification, politicians forced abortion providers to completely restructure our clinics or to build mini hospitals. HB 2 forced more than half of Texas’ abortion clinics to close – including several of my own. Click here to help us keep clinics open.

These closures have put a staggering burden on Texas women. With this clinic shutdown law, politicians forced Texas women seeking abortion to go to clinics that are further away or in another state; take more days off of work, lose income, find childcare, and arrange and pay for transportation to travel hundreds of miles. For many, the process of obtaining safe and legal health care has become an onerous, grueling feat or just flat out impossible.

I hold in my heart all those women and families who were forced to forgo care as a result of Texas’ draconian anti-choice laws.

Today’s decision marks a turnaround for Texas and for our country, but let me be clear: this win doesn’t mean the struggle is over. First, clinics don’t reopen overnight. We have a daunting task ahead of us to determine whether and how we can reopen our health centers that were forced to shut their doors over the past several years. Renewing leases, hiring staff, and working with communities that we previously served to help us re-open for care.

And second, this decision only addressed two of the many, many restrictions women face to get abortion care in Texas. Now we must redouble our efforts across the country to end similar state restrictions that push abortion out of reach for too many women. It’s time to pass proactive state laws so a woman has access to quality clinics in her community, can afford abortion, and doesn’t face shame or stigma when she seeks care.

From day one, Whole Woman’s Health rejected HB 2’s insulting premise and we fought back. We took on the bully politicians. We have struggled every day since then against anti-choice, regressive policies and our opposition’s best efforts to shut us down.

And we won.

I am proud to continue providing holistic and high-quality care not only in Texas, but also in Maryland, New Mexico, Minnesota, and Illinois. Today, we made history and tomorrow, we get back to work so that every woman who seeks abortion services can get the health care she needs with dignity and respect.

 

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Waiting for SCOTUS: Ten memorable moments in the fight against HB2

It’s official: Monday morning we will get an answer from the Supreme Court regarding our fight against the Texas omnibus HB2 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. We have been in this for three years now, ever since Wendy Davis made her historic filibuster. Now, years of small victories and devastating clinic closures are coming to some kind of an end that only Monday will tell.

Continue on to read some of our favorite moments along this journey, as we count down to the final announcement.

#10. When the ACLU of Texas accused the state of hiding evidence showing the real impact of HB2 

This happened just recently, but still deserves a spot on the list. The entire premise of the omnibus HB2, at least in the verbiage of Texas officials, was to protect ‘women’s health and safety.’ Well, the data has been collected and where is it? Have you seen it? No, and neither have we.

From the ACLU:

“The State of Texas claims that HB2 protects women’s health. If that’s true, why wouldn’t our public health agency want to trumpet its success?”

Good question.

#9 – We launched Shift., our non profit dedicated to fighting abortion stigma!

We have long touted that abortion stigma is what creates the climate for anti-choice laws to thrive. The silence and shame make room for public discourse that is harmful, full of fear, and simply untrue. Providing compassionate abortion care free of stigma has always been a cornerstone of our work at Whole Woman’s Health, and so it only made sense to expand that into a new non profit, Shift., that was launched in the spring of 2015.

 

We are proud of the work Shift. has done in just over a year – from implementing a Safe Abortion hotline for people seeking clarity on the laws and options, to a beautiful mural covering the exterior wall of Whole Woman’s Health of McAllen. Now, Shift. is looking forward and working to keep Texas clinics open, regardless of the SCOTUS outcome. Click here to help.

#8 – John Oliver’s amazing takedown of TRAP Laws

It pretty much made our year to hear our story being told in that delightful British accent. You can watch it again here:

#7 – The Truth Tour

Kicking off this past January, on the 43rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, we embarked on a multi-city #FightBackTX Truth Tour to rally with Texas communities and remind ourselves that this is a journey that started in Texas. We were in excellent company – joined by coalition partners from NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, Texas Freedom Network, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, Shift., ACLU of Texas, as well as Lilith Fund, Texas Equal Access Fund, Clinic Access Support Network, South Texans for Reproductive Justice, West Fund, URGE, and more!

Over the course of those 2,000 miles, we watched students boldly perform the abortion stories from the 1 in 3 Campaign’s Out of Silence on the quad at Texas A&M. We marched down Main Street in McAllen yelling ‘BASTA!’, and we opened up our San Antonio clinic so local and national media could experience what expensive, stigmatizing, and unnecessary regulations actually looked like.

 

#6 – Listening to our physicians open up and advocate for abortion access

We don’t know a single person who works in abortion care for the paycheck. This is not a job for people who just want to punch in and out. We receive gratitude and thanks from the patients we serve and threats from people who want to make abortion illegal. Our physicians not excluded. We have been moved by their courage in coming forward and speaking openly about their work as abortion providers and are honored to work by their side.

That was my foundation: if there are no abortion providers, what’s going to happen to the women that need to access this health care, if people like me aren’t around? I’m not the only abortion provider in Texas, but there’s a small number of us, and I worried when I was in med school, if I don’t come back, who is going to provide abortions in Texas?

– Dr. Bhavik Kumar, The Texas Observer

 

Here’s where [HB2]’s intentional unworkability kicks in. To keep admitting privileges, I would have to admit a certain number of patients to the hospital. But abortion in the vast majority of cases is a simple and safe procedure, and very few patients ever require follow-up or emergency care afterward. So because the vast majority of my patients never needed follow-up care, I lost my privileges.

– Dr. Timothy Spurrell, Time

#5 – The Amicus Briefs

The Amicus, or ‘friend of the court’ briefs, are an opportunity for people to speak on behalf of us and our case, to paint for the court a full picture of the impact of these laws. The amicus briefs submitted by the Center for Reproductive Rights are some of the largest in number and breadth in the history of the Supreme Court. There are personal stories that that brought us to tears – experiences from doctors and lawyers and advocates from across the country. There are submissions from organizations we admire as well as from blue states and cities and policy makers.

These briefs are a passionate reminder that we are on the side of justice and autonomy and that this decision will have deeply personal and wide scale implications.

Click here to read the briefs.

#4 – TRAPPED

To have our struggles against these laws documented (by an amazing filmmaker, no less) and then to see them play out on the silver screen along with our colleagues throughout the South is indescribable. Yes, there were many, many tears, and we definitely experienced all the feels.

So often it seems like our efforts to stay open, to be there for our patients are invisible to those outside of abortion care. We hear it so often: ‘I had no idea this was happening until I became pregnant.’ Dawn Porter’s Trapped is a beautiful and moving answer to this problem. It has received glowing reviews from across the country, including winning the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking at the Sundance Film Festival. Most recently, Trapped aired on PBS’ Independent Lens. You can stream the full film here.

#3 – The Rally at the Supreme Court

On the particularly chilly morning of March 2nd, we stood outside of the Supreme Court with thousands of allies and supporters, listening to stories from across the country. Yes it would have been amazing to gaze upon the glory that is RBG, but the Rally at the Supreme Court to Protect Abortion Access was an experience of a lifetime and definitely worth the trip.

 

#2 – The Oral Arguments

But also let’s be real – most of us would have given just about anything to have watched the Justices duke it out over abortion rights. And, according to the transcript and audio recordings, it was goooooooooood.

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#1 – Wendy Davis. The People’s Filibuster. The Orange Army. #FightBackTX.

This is where it started. Two special sessions. Two filibusters. A nationally trending hashtag. Those pink Mizunos. State officials said that they’ve never seen anything like it in all their time working at the Capitol.

These sessions brought new life and new faces to our movement, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without everyone who dropped what they were doing, put on their orange, and flooded the Capitol in outrage. You did this! You showed up. You fought back. And you ushered us to the Supreme Court.

Relive it again:

 

 

 

 

 

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Honorary mentions go to the SCOTUS Blog, where we will forever be #waitingforlyle, and decision day GIFs.

What do you think? Did we get it right? Did we miss anything? Let us know!

Whole Woman’s Health Responds to the 5th Circuit Ruling on Texas HB2

Texas women and families suffered a blow today when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit took away essential health care for all Texans.  Their decision once again will push abortion care out of reach for too many Texas women.

 After taking nearly 6 months to rule, the 5th Circuit has issued its opinion and, as expected, it is a near-total loss.  The injunction we received from the Supreme Court against every part of the law is to be lifted, with two minor exceptions, specifically related to Whole Woman’s Health of McAllen. At this time we are still analyzing the decision to see if the relief granted to Whole Woman’s Health of McAllen will allow us to keep our doors open.

 The decision doesn’t take effect immediately – we have approximately 22 days before it does so.  All Whole Woman’s Health clinics will remain open for this time period and we will go up to the Supreme Court on an emergency basis in the meantime.

 All Texas abortion clinics are now, once  again, subject to politically imposed,  medically unnecessary requirements—requirements that are so onerous that they leave me no choice but to officially close the doors of every remaining abortion clinic in the state, leaving only a handful of ASC’s located only in the major metropolitan areas leaving thousands of women without access in the largest state in the continental USA.

 Politicians put a road full of unnecessary hurdles in front of every woman in Texas who has decided to end her pregnancy.   For nearly one million Texas women, the repercussions of this ruling  will be devastating.  Ending a pregnancy will mean traveling at least 300 miles and overcoming needless hurdles such as additional costs, childcare, time off, and immigration checkpoints.  This is simply unacceptable.

 It’s bad enough that the politicians that we—the people of Texas—elected to protect and represent our communities have turned their backs us, and now, the justice system has too. But let me assure you, Whole Woman’s Health remains committed to supporting women and families across the state.

 Whole Woman’s Health will fight to provide the full spectrum of reproductive health services, including abortion care, in a caring, holistic, and safe environment.

No matter what the outcome of this case is, Whole Woman’s Health will continue to remain open to serve women in the Southwest with our surgical center facility in San Antonio and in our New Mexico clinic, which serves the women of New Mexico and West Texas.

 We are invigorated by the outpouring of support that we continue to receive not only from Texans, but from people across the country. We are more determined than ever and will stop at nothing to preserve Texas women’s access to safe abortion care—and that includes taking this battle to the United States Supreme Court.

 Texas, we stand with you and ask that you continue to stand with us.  Stand with us as we fight back.  Stand with us as we join with others to build lasting power and create the change that will bring back our health care.  If we stand together we can  turn our state into one that respects our health and our decision-making.