A Message From Our Founder: Why I’m Reopening My Clinic in Austin Amidst Continued Attacks on Texan Women

 

austinreopen2.pngNearly nine months after U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision in June, which overturned restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas and nationwide,  we’ve decided to reopen our flagship Whole Woman’s Health clinic in Austin. By mid-April, we will be serving Central Texas again.

In July 2014, Whole Woman’s Health of Austin was forced to close due to Texas’s Omnibus Abortion Bill (HB2). The admitting privileges and ASC building requirements, which legislate everything from the size of hallways to the size of the janitor’s closet, had a direct impact on Texas abortion providers, causing over half of the state’s clinics to close. Since then, women in need of abortion care have had to wait longer for appointments, drive outside of their communities for a simple procedure, and had to delay their care.

I’m making this decision as part of a bigger commitment to defend women’s access to abortion nationwide. Since I founded Whole Woman’s Health in Austin in 2003, I’ve testified and been a plaintiff in at least four different cases taking on Texas’ onerous laws, as well as fighting for access for women in states all across the USA.  After our Supreme Court victory, the Whole Woman’s Health decision has been used to reverse similar anti-abortion laws in over 8 states, restoring women’s health and access to quality care.

When we made the devastating decision to close in Austin in 2014 in the wake of HB2, I made the commitment to reopen in Austin as soon as I could. We got our start here, and I’m thrilled to announce that we’ll be restoring the fabric of care that Texans have come to count on from Whole Woman’s Health.

As we have seen, anti-abortion restrictions like HB2 are designed to shut clinics down, they shame women and they make accessing abortion difficult. But, every woman deserves support, respect, and dignity in making her own health decisions, including being able to safely and legally end a pregnancy if she needs to – and the majority of Americans support this opinion.

Polls have shown that the vast majority of Americans believe women should have access to safe, high-quality abortion care in their local communities.  In our clinics, we provide every woman the compassionate, professional and safe abortion care that she deserves and it is time this care returned to Austin.

At Whole Woman’s Health, we’ve been inspired by dozens of allies: supporters, partner organizations, staff, physicians and members of the community.  Despite opposition, our community has rallied with us to restore quality care and serve Central Texas. However, even with this re-opening, there will still only be 19 abortion facilities providing care in Texas, still a stark decline from the 41 clinics that were open prior to HB2’s implementation in 2013.

All abortion care providers –  in Texas, and throughout the country – are still subject to continued legislative attacks and targeted regulation. At least 46 anti-abortion bills have been introduced this season at the state level. They range from outright abortion bans, to more restrictions on methods and facilities, to the institution of funeral requirements for fetuses.

It would appear that Texas politicians are undeterred by the Supreme Court’s rulings and will continue to allocate precious Texas’ resources to restricting abortion access, no matter how costly or unconstitutional the fight may be. The state spent $4.5 million in the Hellerstedt battle, and lost again recently in  Whole Woman’s Health V. Hellerstedt II: A federal judge blocked state regulations forcing Texas health care providers to bury or cremate embryonic or fetal tissue from abortions, miscarriage or treatment for ectopic pregnancy–regardless of their patients’ personal wishes or beliefs. Like many other clinics and activists throughout the nation, we will persist in fighting these battles on the streets, in the courts, and in the national conversation. Despite what political rhetoric might have you believe, the people of Texas are on our side.

We can, and will, restore services and the care that women need— even in Texas. Hopefully, this opening will also serve as a beacon of hope for the rest of the nation.

In leading the long fight against HB2, we know our work is not done.

As we use our Hellerstedt victory to return to the Austin and Central Texas community, we feel more determined than ever to help restore care in the communities that need us the most throughout the country. Our Austin reopening in April is simply our first giant step forward.

Beginning April 2017, schedule an appointment at our Austin location by calling (877) 835-1090.

 

Whole Woman’s Health Celebrates 14 Years

 

Whole Woman's Health turns 14!

Statement from Amy Hagstrom Miller, Founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health:

“I’m feeling so proud to have taken a risk to form my own company based solidly in my mission and vision. Being an abortion care provider in the South comes with challenges. I’m proud to have had women working with me by my side since day one who are passionate, dedicated, whip-smart and reflect and care for the communities we live and work in.

I’m proud to have grown so much over these past 14 years – adding clinics where we are needed most, fighting bad laws and bad guys, adding non-profit work in advocacy and education and emerging as national thought leaders and innovators in our field.
I couldn’t be prouder of my family and my team at Whole Woman’s Health! On this 14th anniversary, I pause to thank the doctors, nurses, counselors, medical assistants, advocates and leadership at Whole Woman’s Health. And I toast our allies all across the nation. We are all bright lights and we will shine on.”

We are more resilient than ever and are continuing our commitment to grow, advocate, educate, teach, learn, listen, and fight!

Beyond SCOTUS: What Happens Now?

Yesterday’s Supreme Court victory was a historic win for abortion rights and was especially meaningful for us and providers across the country who have had to close their doors from these medically unnecessary restrictions.

While we’ve been celebrating the good news, there are new questions on all our minds as we look ahead: When will clinics reopen? When will abortion access be restored?

 

The remaining clinics in Texas will be able to keep their doors open, and this decision paves the way for other clinics to open or reopen. However, this process may not be a swift one. Many layers combine to create an abortion landscape and include, but are not limited to, state laws, local statutes, community support, state funding options, insurance coverage rules (only a handful of states allow for state Medicaid to cover abortion services), finding a building, finding a building that someone is willing to lease to us, purchasing equipment, applying for and going through the process of getting approved for licensing, hiring and training staff and physicians, and more.

Here’s Amy Hagstrom Miller speaking about this process with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now:

And so, I think what we’re going to see is many of us, Whole Woman’s Health included, trying to figure out where will we be able to reopen, what will the process be for finding a lease and finding a building and restoring the staffing and the physicians. And the second part will be: What’s the process going to be now for us to apply for a new license for abortion services in the state of Texas after we’ve had this win? How is that process going to be for us? And I think, you know, none of us really know how it’s going to be. And so, I think we’ll see a couple—a couple of us probably try as soon as we could. And, you know, I think it’s important to also realize that part of the abortion facility work is operational, and it’s healthcare—you know, Healthcare 101. And so, we have to figure out how to raise funds for acquiring the equipment, acquiring the medicines and the staffing and those kinds of things, in order to run a top-notch facility. And that isn’t something that can happen overnight.

 

We came into this work to provide compassionate, quality abortion care and that is exactly what we want to continue doing. It is our dream to see abortion access restored in Texas – for people to have clinics in their communities where they can receive care.

We’re working to resume care in communities that have been left without – but first that means getting the resources together to rebuild. Our nonprofit, Shift. is raising money to help with this effort. Donate here to help us turn the tide on the current abortion access crisis in Texas.

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!

Amy Hagstrom Miller speaks with Vote Your Values as we wait for a Supreme Court ruling

Earlier today, our president and CEO, Amy Hagstrom Miller, sat down with Refinery29’s Vote Your Values to talk about being the lead plaintiff in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, and what’s at stake with the Supreme Court case that could be announced any day now.

In particular, Amy told a story we’ve become all too familiar with since the passage of HB2, of a woman trying to access care with no available clinics in her area.  You can read the story below and watch the full conversation (well worth the 30 minutes) here.

“We’ve heard from so many people. This law didn’t do anything to prevent the need from unplanned pregnancy. It didn’t reduce the number of people who need abortion care. It just cut off women’s access to quality care. The same amount of women in the communities we serve need abortion care. 

We had a woman call us from Lubbock, which is in west Texas. The clinics there have all closed because of HB2. She was a single mom, a working mom of three, and we had to tell her that she had to travel 35o miles to Dallas/Fort Worth to get an abortion. And she called us about six times during the course of her pregnancy, trying to figure out how to get time off work, afford gas, travel round trip, get childcare. By the time she was actually got her ultrasound she was too far along in her pregnancy to have an abortion in the state of Texas. 

That’s not in the best interest of women’s health and safety. When she called us she was eight weeks into her pregnancy. [That would have been] a risk-free, first trimester abortion, which is a totally normal part of reproductive health care. But, because of these laws it pushed her further into the pregnancy, into the second trimester, and actually it endangered her health.

That’s why it absolutely drives me crazy when people by into the spin of ‘women’s health and safety’ in our best interest, because it couldn’t be further from the truth.”

 

The only infograph you need to understand what’s at stake with WWH v. Hellerstedt (via Refinery29)

Any day now the Supreme Court Justices will hand down a decision regarding our case against Texas HB 2, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. With only eight justices on the bench, there are multiple scenarios that could play out in a case that, for better or worse, will impact abortion access across the country.

Refinery29 put together this comprehensive infograph to help understand how these different rulings will ultimately impact access where you live:

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You can read the full article from Refinery29 here.