We Stand in the Light: Amy Hagstrom Miller’s Speech at the Supreme Court

It is an honor it is for me to stand here with you today. I am grateful to everyone who has come before me; the abortion providers who have paved the way and stood up for what is right, even when it is not easy; and the activists demanding dignity and justice whose shoulders I stand on today. Thank you.

To all of you who have supported Whole Woman’s Health and our co-plaintiffs Reproductive Services, Austin Women’s Health Center, Dr. Lynn, Dr. Richter and Dr. Davis. Thank you.

Another big thank you goes to The Center for Reproductive Rights. The Center is full of fierce advocates who work all over the world to ensure that women have access to safe abortion care. It is to them that we all owe a giant round of applause.

My final, and deeply heartfelt thanks goes out to my husband Karl and my two children who are here with us today. I thank them for their patience, for their love and for their belief in me and in our cause.

I’d like to invite the Whole Woman’s folks here today to come stand with me. While they make their way up here, let’s give a loud shout out to the Whole Woman’s Health team members all across the country. This is a phenomenal group of women and men and it is my joy to have some of them here with me today to receive this love from you.

As you can imagine, this has been one of the most challenging, difficult and intense 3 years of our lives.

We have fought like hell and done our best to push back on the bully politicians in Texas. We have chosen to open the doors of all of our clinics in an unprecedented way – inviting documentarians and reporters into our clinics – to meet our staff and physicians and experience the Whole Woman’s Health way.  Every time, we see the stigma of abortion melting away as we share openly and honestly about the work that we do. Through these open doors we are changing the way people think about abortion care in this country. After all, we have nothing to hide and we stand in the light.

Just look at all of you!

Many of you took off work, got on buses from all across the country, arranged childcare; I see some of us have brought our kids along!

And you’ve come here in the cold to stand, UNITED for abortion access. Thank you for making the journey.

But here’s the sad part: however far you traveled, however tough it was, for most of you, coming here today was nothing compared to what a woman in Texas goes through to get an abortion.

And that’s what today is all about.

If the Supreme Court does not put an end to HB 2, Texas women will continue to suffer. And make no mistake: what happens in Texas will not stay in Texas. The bully politicians who passed HB2 have counterparts in nearly every state who want nothing less than for abortion to be completely illegal. They are determined to shut down our clinics and cut women off from care.

We cannot – we WILL NOT allow that to happen.
We’re fighting for the day when all women have access to compassionate reproductive health care like we provide at our Whole Woman’s Health clinics. We are fighting to build a better world for all of us.

I want to help close today’s events by inviting you to join me in envisioning that better world, to share with you my dream for the future of Texas and all across the USA.
I dream that the people who provide abortions will be seen and respected as the human rights workers and medical professionals that we are. That we will be able to go to work without worrying about how we will keep our doors open to serve our patients and our communities, without bulletproof vests.

I dream that those who seek abortion will have the information they need and high-quality holistic care they deserve. I dream that a woman will be able to walk into a clinic without having to worry whether her insurance will cover abortion, without having had to travel hundreds of miles, without a protester screaming in her face.

I dream of a world where no woman comes into my clinics thinking she is the only person who has had an abortion. Thinking she is the only Christian that has had an abortion. Thinking she is the only good mother who had an abortion.

I dream that every one of us who has decided to end a pregnancy will be respected, supported, and feel secure in the knowledge that we are not alone.

Yes, today we stand up against politicians who have tried to push abortion out of reach. We stand in opposition to HB2 and any law like it that shuts down clinics, forces women to delay care, or creates obstacles to abortion.

But we also stand for something: we stand here to affirm that women are good, to affirm that women are moral and kind. To affirm that when a woman has decided to end a pregnancy, we can witness her dreams and her aspirations and affirm that she is put on this Earth to see them out and to act on her own gifts.

That is the world we stand for, and it is the world we will create together.

 

Amy Hagstrom Miller -President & CEO of Whole Woman’s Health

Lead plaintiff in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

Countdown to SCOTUS: Five decades of Texas TRAP laws in 30 seconds

As the countdown to Supreme Court oral arguments continue, we are reminded that the admitting privilege and ambulatory surgical center (ASC) requirements we’re fighting are part of a long history, five decades – in fact, of anti-abortion legislation that has been pushed through the Texas legislature.

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P.S. Have you signed up for the Thunderclap yet? We’re sending a message on March 2nd – Protect Abortion Access!

Amy Hagstrom Miller: Champion of Choice

Last night, Whole Woman’s Health president and CEO, Amy Hagstrom Miller, was honored by NARAL Pro-Choice America as Champion of Choice for her leadership in bringing the fight against HB 2 to the U.S. Supreme Court.

With exactly two weeks until oral arguments are heard on March 2nd – she had this to say:

Thank you for this honor and for inviting me here this evening. I am very touched to receive this award and to be asked to share a few words with you tonight.

 First, I want to start with a big thank your to The Center for Reproductive Rights for representing us and for securing the injunction we currently have from the Supreme Court. They are fierce advocates to whom we all owe a giant round of applause.

Second, a loud shout out to my Whole Woman’s Health team members across the country. We are a fabulous group of women and men who deliver impeccable care to women day in and day out. My team has endured many challenges since HB2 went into effect in Texas and they are bruised and battered beyond what you could imagine. I hope you are able to come to the Rally at the Supreme Court on March 2nd and meet Marva, Fatimah, Andrea, Bhavik, Kristeena and other Whole Woman’s Health folks in person. They deserve a round of applause and our supreme respect.

As you can imagine this has been one of the most challenging, difficult and intense 3 years of my life.  

I have fought like hell and done my best to push back on the bully politicians in Texas, to combat the stigma that allowed for laws like this to pass in the first place,  and to share a larger vision for what quality independent abortion care provision looks like in this country. Whole Woman’s Health has taken on this challenge with all of ourselves – with our hearts, minds and bodies. We have spent hundreds of hours on this lawsuit and shared thousands of documents with the state as part of the discovery process in this case – openly sharing our emails, our financial information, our leases, our mortgages, our doctor contracts.

We are proud of the quality, professional and compassionate abortion care services we provide; we have nothing to hide and we stand in the light.

Over these past 3 years I have chosen to open the doors of all of my clinics in an unprecedented way – inviting documentarians, press and on-camera reporters into our clinics – to experience the Whole Woman’s Health way, to see our clinic environment and to meet our staff and physicians.  Every time we open the door of a Whole Woman’s Health clinic to the public we see the stigma of abortion melting away; we can see it shifting as we share openly and honestly about the work that we do. This is not easy, this takes lots of time and effort, and sometimes it is scary; but through these open doors we are changing the way people think about abortion care in this country.

At the same time I have been leading this fight, I have also watched the company I built take hit after hit; and the clinics I started in Texas close door after door. We have endured a whiplash that is indescribable – opening and closing our clinics, winning victories in one courtroom only to be reversed in the next. This roller coaster has been going on in Texas for nearly a decade now; and as we all know, it has not and it will not stay in Texas.

So why, you may ask, do I do it? For me, abortion care is a calling.

Abortion involves all the big things in life – life, death, sex, family, religion, money, identity, self-esteem, and stigma – as you all know, it is a lightning rod issue in our culture. Eradicating the shame and stigma around abortion is my life’s work. In places like Texas where we are witnessing such dramatic backlash and hostility, we must challenge the assumptions these laws make about women. Laws that require forced ultrasound, waiting periods, hospital privileges for physicians, and the building of mini hospitals to provide care. When laws like these pass, rural women are out of options and many poor women are left behind. These laws disproportionately affect women of color, young women and families without health insurance.  Many women are still shamed and Providers are stigmatized.

I firmly believe that our national, public discourse around abortion needs to SHIFT. Our conversations are plagued by simplistic dualism that begs for more complexity, for more nuance; for embracing the grey, the ambiguity, and the depth of feeling that people in our culture have about abortion. The laws we are dealing with stem directly from our silence and the shame and stigma that surrounds abortion in this country.

We all need to stand in the light.

So, you may ask, what happened in Texas and why should you care?
Well, the Right Wing convinced people that abortion is unsafe and needs to be regulated and is dangerous – and people believed it. They turned their feelings and beliefs into policy and laws and completely disregarded science, facts or evidence. Not because they are idiots or Texans are dumb – but because they have a well thought out, well-funded, strategic plan that is working.

As we all know, these laws are not in the true interest of the health and safety of women. Targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP laws) arise out of a political agenda designed to make abortion almost impossible for practitioners to provide and for women to access. They make false assumptions about a woman’s capacity to understand what it means to be pregnant and to make a sound moral choice on her own.

Every day, all across the world, good women have abortions.
Abortion is part of comprehensive healthcare. So is the right to parent, the right to give birth how and when you want to, and the right not to have children at all – it is all part of realizing our full humanity as women.

Access to safe abortion is a human rights issue.

Over these past three years being at the center of this storm I have come to think of the national news coverage as Tragedy Porn. The sensational way Texas is presented in the news can allow people to think it is crazy and over there and won’t happen to them…. When in fact it can and it will. The truth is that the feelings and beliefs of a few can shut down access and constitutional rights for thousands. We need everyone taking real action to shift this culture.  Especially those in progressive states – we need you to lead the way and to show what’s possible; to stand firm and show what actual rights look like when they are accessible to all women.

As I wrap up I will leave you with this – my dream for the future of Texas and all across the USA. I dream that the people who provide abortions will be seen and respected as the human rights workers and medical professionals that we are, and that people who seek abortion care will be respected and know that they are not alone.

I need you to speak up and out, do not let anti-abortion rhetoric go unchallenged. Do not allow our opposition to hijack the moral high ground. I’d like a world where no woman comes into my clinics thinking she is the only woman who has had an abortion. Thinking she is the only Christian that has had an abortion. Thinking she is the only good mother who had an abortion.

Whole Woman’s Health clinics offer an Oasis from the stigma and shame surrounding abortion in our culture, from the voices and judgments of others that often make it difficult to sit quietly and contemplate a big decision. In our clinics we have a moment to affirm that women are good, to affirm that women are moral and kind, and to affirm that women are not selfish. As we listen to her, we can witness her dreams and her aspirations and affirm that she is put on this Earth to see them out and to act on her own gifts. Let’s make sure all women hear these messages both inside and outside our clinic doors – from DC to California to Minnesota to Texas and all the states in between.

We need your leadership in order to hang on on the front lines in Texas. I welcome your support, and I welcome your donations. If you would like to support our stigma eradication and culture change work on the front lines I invite you to make a donation to our 501©3, Shift,  by visiting www.shiftstigma.org

Thank you again to Ilyse and NARAL for being such fierce allies and thank you to all of you, so very much. Here’s to a win for Whole Woman’s Health in the Supreme Court. We will see you in two weeks for Oral Arguments!

(Cover photo courtesy of Renee Bracey Sherman)

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.