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!

House Bill 2 Forces Whole Woman’s Health of Austin to Close

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“Sometimes when we are generous in small, barely detectable ways it can change someone’s life forever.” Margaret Cho (Whole Woman’s Health).

With extremely heavy hearts, we’re announcing today that Whole Woman’s Health of Austin is closing its doors days before our trial against House Bill 2 begins.

Austin was our flagship clinic, serving the community of Central Texas with the best abortion care available to women for over ten years. House Bill 2, which passed last summer, has forced us into yet another closure, this time because we’re unable to meet the standards of an ambulatory surgical center at this location.

Fortunately we’re still caring for women at Whole Woman’s Health of Fort Worth and, continuing after September 1st, at Whole Woman’s Health of San Antonio.

Here is our official statement to the public:

“We wanted to let you know that as of today, July 31, Whole Woman’s Health will close its Austin clinic doors.

“The closure today of Whole Woman’s Health of Austin is the result of politicians acting against women in our state when they passed HB2.  They continue to be relentless in taking personal health decisions away from women by passing onerous and medically unnecessary restrictions,” commented Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO, Whole Woman’s Health.

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The brother that gets me is going to get one hell of a woman.” Aretha Franklin (Whole Woman’s Health).

This announcement comes just days before the August 4 trial date, when Whole Woman’s Health and other independent providers will challenge the onerous requirements of House Bill 2 (HB2) set to go into effect September 1, 2014 in the legal challenge Whole Woman’s Health vs. Lakey. The outcome of the trial will ultimately decide the fate of Whole Woman’s Health clinics around the state, with the exception of Whole Woman’s Surgical Center in San Antonio, which meets the requirements of HB2 and will remain open into the future.

“While Austin has stopped providing abortion care, our Fort Worth clinic remains open and we hold out hope that this trial will allow us to remain open and continue serving that community and possibly even reopen some of the WWH clinics that HB 2 forced us to close,” said Hagstrom Miller.”

You haven’t seen the last of us yet. We have a lot of things up our sleeve and the lawsuit next week is just the beginning.”

 

Join us on Monday as we continue to fight back against these painfully unnecessary, onerous, and destructive provisions that House Bill 2 has imposed on women and their healthcare providers in Texas.

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#FightBackTX

Whole Woman’s Health Takes Texas to Court over HB 2.

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(Photo via Austin Chronicle).

The trial in our second challenge to Texas’ unconstitutional abortion restrictions will begin at 9AM CT (10AM EST) on Monday, August 4, 2014 in United States District Court in Austin.  We expect the trial to conclude on Thursday, August 7, 2014.

Whole Woman’s Health v Lakey is the second challenge to Texas’ House Bill 2 (HB2), sweeping anti-choice legislation that was passed last summer and has already shuttered clinics across the state and left women with extremely limited health care options. This lawsuit seeks to block the admitting privileges requirement specifically as it applies to Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen and Reproductive Services in El Paso—two clinics that are among the last, if not the only, reproductive health care providers offering safe, legal abortion care in their communities. The second suit also seeks to strike HB2’s provision that every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the same building requirements as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs), a provision scheduled to take effect in September 2014 that would leave fewer than 10 clinics in Texas and force many women to endure a roundtrip of more than a thousand miles or cross state lines to access safe and legal abortion services.

The trial will happen before Judge Lee Yeakel at the United States District Court in Austin at 501 West Fifth Street as it did with our first trial last October. Judge Yeakel will decide that morning whether electronic devices are allowed inside of the courtroom, though it’s likely they’ll only be allowed for taking notes and not for Internet access. 

Watch our Twitter feed for live updates on the trial as we get them, as well as our Facebook page and this blog for more as we fight back against this law with help from the Center for Reproductive Rights and others. #FightBackTX

ANNOUNCEMENT: As of today, Whole Woman’s Health of Fort Worth has Hospital Admitting Privileges

We are so excited to announce that, as of today, we are able to open our doors again at our clinic in Fort Worth. On Halloween night, when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned our injunction handed down to us by Judge Yeakel, we were devastated to find out that our Ft. Worth and McAllen clinics would have to stop providing services and our San Antonio clinic would have to go to a reduced schedule. Now, in Ft. Worth, we can start providing care for women once again. 

This is a highly welcomed bit of good news for us. Our primary mission is to restore care in all of our communities in Texas, and Whole Woman’s Health of Fort Worth was a very integral piece of that mission.

We recognize that Texas women are still highly affected by House Bill 2, and so we are able to help patients in our clinics pay for procedures, transportation, lodging, etc. through our Whole Woman’s Texas Action Fund. 

We will bring you more updates as soon as we have them. 

#FightBackTX

18 Days Left: Tell the DSHS to Stop Regulations on Women’s Health.

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After Governor Perry signed the omnibus anti-abortion bill House Bill 2 into law, a timeline was put in place for when the law would go into effect. The first three provisions of the bill, the part requiring doctors who provide abortion care to have hospital admitting privileges, the 20-week ban, and the way in which the abortion pill is administered to patients as well as its FDA regulated dosage, are set to be implemented on October 29th. The other part of the bill, which goes into effect next year, requires all clinics, whether new or pre-existing, to build their facilities up to ambulatory surgical center standards. That’s where the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) comes in. 

The role that DSHS plays in the implementation of HB 2 is interpreting the laws language into actual standards in which clinics will have to comply with the law. This means that any public comment that you submit will help the DSHS decide on how to adopt revisions to HB 2 that could help women’s access to healthcare in Texas stay open. 

Until October 25th, you can submit public comments here. Use the sample letter and add in your own personal message in the middle section. Tell the DSHS that an ambulatory surgical center is an unnecessary building requirement for clinics that already provide some of the safest procedures known to medicine. 

29 Days Left: Continue the Fight.

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From ACLU of Texas’ Facebook page.

On Friday, we announced a joint federal lawsuit against the state of Texas to combat House Bill 2, an extremely restrictive law that passed in the state legislature this summer.

From CEO and President of Whole Woman’s Health, Amy Hagstrom Miller:

“We are filing a lawsuit today to stop the immense damage that this law will do to the healthcare system for women and families in Texas. The multiple requirements in HB2 create a perfect storm for thousands of women; blocking their access as well as taking away their right to safe medical care. This law is an injustice to women, men and families throughout Texas – from the urban areas along the I35 corridor, to the Valley, to East Texas, to West Texas. Many clinics have already closed and many more face closure if this law is not enjoined immediately.”

The lawsuit, Planned Parenthood v Abbott, is being filed by dozens of women’s healthcare providers in Texas with the Center for Reproductive Rights (representing Whole Woman’s Health), the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the American Civil Liberties Union. All parties are represented by Texas firm George Brothers Kincaid & Horton.

The litigation will specifically address two provisions of HB 2 that are the most immediate, far-reaching, and destructive for women’s health in Texas:

A provision to require physicians providing abortion services to obtain hospital admitting privileges. 

  • Arguably the most pressing of the HB 2 restrictions is its requiring of any physician providing abortion services to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. The provision, which isn’t required of any other medical provider, could cause at least one-third of the state’s licensed health centers providing safe, legal abortions to close in approximately a month from now. Cities like Lubbock, Fort Worth, Waco, McAllen, Harlingen, and Killeen would have access eliminated due to 13 of the 36 clinics in Texas having to close their doors. This has nothing to do with the training, expertise, or standards of the physicians involved but has everything to do with the difficulty of getting admitting privileges from a hospital due to moral or political objections to abortion.

A provision that would change the dosage and administering of a medication abortion.

  • The lawsuit will specifically request an injunction on HB 2’s requirements that doctors now prescribe abortion-inducing drugs according to an outdated Food and Drug Administration label. Doctors have not followed this protocol for 13 years as research has since found that current ways in which the drug is administered are safer, more effective, and use less of the medication when a woman chooses to use the pill method to end a pregnancy. The old FDA label requires both three times the dosage of the current prescription and would also allow the drug to be administered not at a place where she chooses to miscarry, but only in a licensed abortion facility. Under the new requirements, a woman would have to drive back-and-forth to the clinic for each pill, increasing the chances that she would miscarry while commuting to and from one of her appointments.

Similar laws that require hospital admitting privileges have been passed in states like Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Wisconsin, all of them having had an injunction filed against them via a lawsuit similar to Planned Parenthood v Abbott. This is another indication that HB 2 is not an isolated law, but rather a repeat attempt by a larger national movement to restrict access across the US as a whole.

Research has already been done on the impact of HB 2 from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TXPEP), who found that of the women affected by HB 2, 80% of them will be living outside of the major metropolitan areas where the last remaining clinics that provide abortion will be. According to TXPEP’s findings, “nearly half of women seeking an abortion in Texas were unable to access their preferred birth control method in the months prior to their unintended pregnancy.”

The majority of Texans oppose HB 2 and any other abortion restrictions like it. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research found that 80 percent of Texans did not want abortion to be on the call for the special session this summer: “of registered voters, 63 percent say the state has enough restrictions on abortion and 71 percent thinking that the Governor and legislature should be more focused on the economy and jobs. A majority opposes the sort of legislation passed by the state Senate and being considered by the state House during this legislative Special Session, believing that it imposes further restrictions on abortion. Overall, only 34 percent trust the Governor and the legislature to make decisions about women’s healthcare.”

HB 2 has another provision not included in Planned Parenthood v Abbott, which would require all abortion facilities in Texas to increase their building standards to Ambulatory Surgical Centers (ASC) by September 2014. Facilities that would attempt to meet the requirements would need more time and a lot more money in order to retrofit or build an ASC to operate within the law.

So, what can you do?

We recommend doing the most important thing, and that’s educating everyone you know about the weight of this lawsuit and the precedence it could set. The Department of State Health Services has opened up public commentary for a 30-day period that started last week on the new rules set in place by HB 2. Participate in events like this webinar at 2pm today, or go to film screenings about the importance of abortion like this Cinema East screening of After Tiller. Always remember that spreading knowledge and awareness is your best weapon in the fight against the stigma that surrounds reproductive healthcare.

If you want to know why lawsuits and courts are an important part of challenging legislation, watch this video from WhyCourtsMatter.org, a project by the Center for American Progress:

We will keep you posted with updates on the lawsuit, on the status of our company’s presence in Texas, and on what’s next in continuing the fight against anti-choice extremists.

#fightbacktx

33 Days Left: A Week of Ceremonies

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Yesterday we had an event at our Fort Worth clinic that was hosted by our Founder and CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller and by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The event was called #UniteTonight which is in conjunction with Draw the Line, a national movement to pressure the federal government into protecting people from assault on their reproductive healthcare. Everyone mingled inside of Whole Woman’s Health of Fort Worth and enjoyed drinks, food, and a live viewing of the national broadcast from other locations across the country. 

While some of the WWH staff were drawing the line in Fort Worth, others were at the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity Awards, a fun, formal ceremony that honored pro-choice advocates that provided some of the largest impact during the special sessions in Texas this summer. The recipients of the awards were Representative Mary Gonzalez, Representative Dawnna Dukes, Representative Jessica Farrar, Community Outreach Rockstar Brittany Yelverton, Local Writer Jessica Luther, and Freelance Reporter/Senior Political Reporter at RH Reality Check Andrea Grimes. With a massive silent auction, the Lilith REAs also helped raise more money for the fund. With House Bill 2 about to go into its first stage of implementation, raising money for organizations like Lilith is more important than ever.

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Both events made us even more excited for what’s to come in Texas and reminded us that our movement is building faster than it ever has. We can’t wait for what’s next.