“I’ve learned to be stronger by witnessing their strength” – Andrea Ferrigno’s speech on the steps of the Supreme Court

Good Morning Everyone,

My name is Andrea Ferrigno, I am the corporate vice president for Whole Woman’s Health. Like my colleagues here to, we are grateful that so many of you have come to bear witness as we bring our case to the Supreme Court. It’s been quite a journey.

As a Hispanic immigrant from Latin America, I have witnessed firsthand the grave importance of having access to safe, legal abortion care in an environment where women’s voices matter. That is why I am committed to this work both on a professional and personal level.

I have done just about every job at Whole Woman’s Health, and I can tell you what it means to provide compassionate, quality abortion care. to do this work in Texas, where so many Latinas and immigrants like me are struggling to get the health care we need, is personal.

I am proud to be able to talk to patients in their preferred language, to listen to them and hold their hand. I have the privilege to sit next to women as they share their stories with me, and honor their most inner struggles with spirituality, fear, love, life and parenthood.

I am truly humbled and inspired by their resilience.

But I have also seen firsthand how laws like HB2 can force clinics to shut down. I’ve had to sign the construction orders for costly work to comply with medically unnecessary TRAP regulations.

Not only have they tried to shut down our clinics, they’ve tried to stop us from creating the warm and friendly atmosphere our patients deserve. They want to make our spaces cold, sterile, and scary. I watched with sadness as they told us we could no longer provide the soothing space our patients are grateful for. Again, there is no medical reason for these rules. Instead, they are simply a way for politicians to reach in and interfere with how we provide care, with how we show women that we love them, value them, and trust them.

I think about the woman that on the phone begged me to see her even though our clinic was shut down by this law, I still hear her desperation telling me: “Please, please, I won’t tell anyone. Why won’t you help me, please?!’

Or the woman that became pregnant while starting her chemotheraphy treatment for ovarian cancer. Her own physician refused to help her terminate the pregnancy because of fear of repercussion from the anti-choice board members of his hospital. She came to us the day HB2 was enacted and we couldn’t see her.

There are so many stories just as compelling, and it is by listening to women’s stories that I’ve learned to be a better person; I’ve been humbled by their wisdom, and I’ve learned to be stronger by witnessing their strength. I share their frustration and pain on a personal level, because it is impossible to ignore this injustice. We have to remember that these laws don’t end abortions, it ends safe abortions.

Every day I see the impact of onerous, medially unnecessary abortion restrictions on the lives of the women who come to our clinics.

But working for Whole Woman’s Health, I’ve also seen what is possible. What it looks like to respect and support our patients and provide compassionate care. It is transformations and is the reason why we are here today. I look forward to the Supreme Court deciding on the side of justice so that I can keep doing the work that I love.

I stated 16 years ago that this is my calling, what God would want me to do. I’m not stopping, are you?

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)

Statement from Amy Hagstrom Miller: “Today, my heart is filled with hope”

Hello, My name is Amy Hagstrom Miller, Founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health. We are the lead plaintiff in this case. I own and operate 8 high quality independent abortion care clinics in 5 states – Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico and Maryland.

Today is an exciting day for Whole Woman’s Health. We have been fighting this draconian law since 2013. After a series of appeals and emergency injunctions, here we are today, having heard from the highest court of the land that they will hear our case. I want to thank the Center for Reproductive Rights for continuing to partner with our organization in our continued fight to stand up for the reproductive rights for the women of Texas.

Today, my heart is filled with hope. Although this is the first step in a much longer process, I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will uphold the rights that have been in place for four decades and reaffirm that every woman should be able to make her own decision about continuing or ending a pregnancy. I have hope for my staff members, who, for years, have poured themselves into providing Texas women with high-quality and comprehensive reproductive health care. And most of all, I have hope for the families and communities all across Texas who now may be able to get the safe and comprehensive care they need from a clinic they trust.

This law is causing real harm to women across the state of Texas, and has been since 2013 – it’s creating higher costs, longer delays, and extra steps for women seeking abortion care, and in the process punishing women for their decision to exercise their constitutional right to end a pregnancy. A woman should be able to access the safe and legal abortion services she needs regardless of her zip code.

By forcing clinics to close, Texas legislators have multiplied the barriers women face when they need an abortion. Texas women are forced to go to multiple and unnecessary visits at clinics that are now farther away, take more days off of work, losing income, find childcare, and arrange and pay for transportation for hundreds of miles. For many women, the process of obtaining safe and legal health care has simply become unfeasible. No one should be denied safe and compassionate care based on her zip code, but that’s exactly what this law does. Legislators are effectively forcing these women to carry their pregnancies to term against their will.

Take for example a woman from Lubbock. Prior to HB 2, her community had a clinic. With the enactment of HB 2, she faced a 230 mile, 4.5 hour trip – EACH WAY – just to get a first trimester abortion. She was a working, single mother of 3 without healthcare. She faced layers of barriers – including find gas money for the drive and child care for the day she would be away. In the end she was pushed into the later second trimester and finally was unable to obtain the abortion she wanted.

Or take for another example a woman who visited our McAllen clinic on the Texas-Mexico border. Unfortunately she was scheduled for an appointment the day after HB 2 first went into effect. After HB 2 her appointment was immediately canceled. She was devastated by the absurdity of this law – noting immediately that if she had come just yesterday the same MD and staff would have been able to help her. She reached out to our hotline and said: “I will terminate this pregnancy. So how about I tell you what I have in my cupboards, under my sink and in my medicine cabinet and you tell me what to use and how to use it in order to do my own abortion.”

It’s stunning to hear stories like these, but that is exactly what is at stake. If the Supreme Court does not stop this deceptive, politically driven law we will hear more stories like these.

In 2003, Whole Woman’s Health made a commitment to provide quality and holistic reproductive health care in Texas. This is a commitment we intend to keep. To the women of Texas: Now, more than ever, we are here for you. We have been betrayed by legislators and vilified by anti-choice extremists, but we are still here for you, and are confident that justice will be on our side.  We are honored to stand up for Texas women and families and bring this case to the highest court in the land.

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

30 GIFs that summarize our feelings as we wait for SCOTUS to announce if they will hear our case.

As many are aware, we have spent the last few years ping-ponging back and forth between local courts and the regional Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals fighting against the onerous HB2. Currently many abortion clinics in Texas are only open through the grace of the Supreme Court, who placed a hold on select provisions of the law. This has prevented the provisions from taking effect and has also lead to a TRAP purgatory of sorts – one in which we are both thankful for the ability to care for our patients but also spend our days in uncertainty.

Last month we petitioned SCOTUS to set a date and end this battle. On behalf of clinics in besieged states across the US, we want to know what specifically constitutes as undue burden and why aren’t lawmakers required to provide factual evidence to support their claim that these laws preserve the ‘health and safety of women’ when all research points to the contrary.

Any day now we are expecting to hear from the Supreme Court as to whether they will take our case, Whole Woman’s Health vs. Cole. If they do and we win – states would no longer be able to pass legislation requiring clinics and people seeking abortion care to jump through flaming hoops of bullsh*t nonsense in order to provide and access healthcare.

If the Supreme Court announces that they do not wish to hear the case, or if they do hear the case and we lose, the laws would go into effect immediately in Texas, forcing all but a handful of clinics to shut down and we would see an immediate tidal wave of similar, possibly more restrictive anti-abortion laws flood the rest of the country.

These options would majorly change how abortion care is provided and accessed in this country, and here at Whole Woman’s Health we are definitely feeling that pressure.

We’ve bitten our nails down to the bone over the last week, knowing that each day could bring a potential announcement.

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At work, it’s difficult to focus..

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Everything feels like such a struggle.

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We hate to admit it, but sometimes it’s just hard to keep it together.

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We find ourselves obsessively refreshing the SCOTUS blog for updates.

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It’s hard not to feel like this little duck family – they just want to cross the street and we just want to provide constitutionally protected, essential health care services.

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But until the decision to hear our case is announced, we will continue to float in metaphorical space just like this astronaut dog floating in actual space.

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And if SCOTUS chooses not to hear our case, forcing mass clinic shutdowns and a resulting wave of harmful trap laws this will basically be us:

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But they wouldn’t… they have to take the case… right?

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It would be silly not to. There is too much at stake, obviously.

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But seriously, the suspense.

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And the anti-choice arguments that these restrictions are to protect health and safety of women is total garbage just doesn’t cut it when you stack up the evidence.

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It’s exhausting – explaining to people that fancy buzz words that look good on paper, like ‘ambulatory surgical center’ and ‘admitting privileges’ actually decrease the quality of care and make it more difficult to operate.

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But if the announcement is made that we’ll be going to the highest court in the land, you can be confident that we’ll bring our Cookie-approved A-game to DC.

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And if we win, we’ll have a hard time holding in our excitement.

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yes celebrate celebrating jane the virgin woo hoo

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Until then we’ll be crossing our fingers that a hopeful announcement will come in the next few days..

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Our Statement on Today’s Texas Senate HHS Committee “Hearing”

“Today, overzealous politicians and extremists orchestrated a politically motivated hearing, serving as yet another incessant attack on all Texas abortion providers in order to end safe, legal abortion care by any means necessary. Although Planned Parenthood continues to be at the center of these attacks, today during biased testimony other providers like Whole Woman’s Health were mentioned. It is clear that these heinous attempts are now aimed to broadly discredit safe abortion care in the entire state of Texas.”  

– Amy Hagstrom Miller, Founder, President, and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health

Speaking out against the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee Hearing regarding alleged illegal activity occurring at Planned Parenthood.

Statement from Amy Hagstrom Miller, President and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health on Today’s Supreme Court #HB2 Stay

“Today I truly breathe a deep sigh of relief  as the the Supreme Court of the United States protected our three Whole Woman’s Health clinics in West Texas and the Rio Grande Valley from shutting their doors by partially blocking components of Texas’ omnibus anti-choice law, HB2.

I just can’t stop smiling since I heard the news an hour ago – all this work, all this time, and all this uncertainty for my team and the women that we serve. Always knowing that we stand on the right side of history, yet always being careful not to hope too much. But today we did it. We kept Texas’ clinics open. Calling my team in McAllen and my team in Fort Worth just now was so rewarding – to tell them that the clinics will stay open, and that the jobs they love so much serving women will be there for them next week and beyond. They were cheering.

As you know this law, which was recently upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court, would have had a catastrophic impact on women and families across the state of Texas. We’re relieved that the high court has, once again, prevented anti-choice politicians’ from pushing safe and affordable abortion care entirely out of reach for the women in these communities.

Let me be clear: these restrictions have nothing to do with protecting women. HB2 is anti-choice legislators’ thinly veiled attempt to make abortion unavailable and unaffordable by closing down clinics. Today’s ruling only reinforces the fact that requiring every abortion clinic to turn into a surgical center is both excessive and medically unnecessarily.

We understand that these court decisions are changing the status of this law from  day to day. We are committed to ensuring that Texas women know that abortion is still LEGAL and, despite anti-choice lawmakers’ best efforts, it is also still available. If women have questions about where they can go to end an pregnancy, I would encourage them to call our newly established hotline at 1 (877) 833-9190.

We are emboldened by the Court’s decision, but know that this fight is far from over. We will continue to stand with the women of Texas to ensure they have access to affordable abortion care when they need it. As my staff just said to me when I called them an hour ago – we will be here no matter what, we get knocked down and still we rise. We are in it for the long haul, and today is a really good day!”