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.

Amy Hagstrom Miller’s Speech from the NIRH Champions of Choice Awards Luncheon

Thank you Andrea, the National Institute for Reproductive Health staff and the board for this honor – as well as fro standing with us as partners and supporters for the past three years. 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. It is wonderful to be here among friends.

I want to introduce a few loved ones who are here. My sister Cathy, my nephew Sam, my dear friend Ellen, my sister of the heart Renee, and my most honored guest, my tremendously supportive #1 fan, my thinking partner, and my love – my husband Karl. These are the kind of people every woman on the front lines deserves to have at her back and by her side. Thank you for coming.

As you can imagine these have been the most challenging, difficult and intense three years of my life.

I have fought like hell 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 our lawsuit, shared thousands of documents with the State and endured many hours in deposition and testimony.

During this time we have also chosen to open the doors of all of our clinics in an unprecedented way – inviting documentarians, press and on-camera reporters in 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 give tours of our beautiful facilities and share openly and honestly about the work that we do. This is not easy, this takes 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.

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

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

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So why, you may ask, do I do it?

For me, abortion is a calling.

Abortion involves all the big things in life – life, death, sex, family, religion, money, identity, self-esteem – as you all know, it is a lighting 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.

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. In fact, they have a well thought out, well-funded, strategic plan that is working. And the truth is that the feelings and beliefs of a few, successfully shut down the constitutional rights for thousands.

As we 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.

We know however all across the world, every day, 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.

Three years ago Whole Woman’s Health chose to challenge these laws and to work with the Center for Reproductive Rights to build a case that would demonstrate the harm and the undue burden faced by so many people all across Texas. Let me tell you, serving the lead plaintiff is no joke! But amid all of the uncertainty, the challenges, the setbacks and the waiting I have never once regretted it. We are standing on the right side of history and I am proud to lead us through these times. It is an honor.

Let me tell you, being at the Supreme Court and hearing the four liberal justices argue our case and cite our evidence chapter and verse was the thrill of a lifetime.

When Justice Kagan very adeptly took on the Texas Solicitor General’s assertion that the clinic closures had nothing to do with HB2 I almost (almost) felt bad for the guy.

When Justice Ginsburg questioned how the requirement that medication abortion be offered in a surgery center was based in any way on medical evidence we thoroughly enjoyed hearing the Texas attorney grasp for straws.

When Justice Breyer called out our evidence over and over and over, demonstrating a complete mastery of our case, our testimony, the evidence and the amicus briefs I had chills.

Even Justice Kennedy didn’t seem to buy into the state’s argument that this law was somehow in the best interest of women’s health and safety. He never once questioned our attorneys about the undue burden standard, and he even went so far as to comment that the law’s restrictions on medication abortion delay women from accessing the safest method early in pregnancy and may increase the second trimester abortion rate. Something surely not in the interest of a woman’s safety.

And then finally as Chief Justice Roberts attempted to end the questioning that had already gone on for nearly 30 minutes longer than expected we saw Justice Sotomayor, who was on fire, ignore him and just keep on going. At one point when the Texas solicitor general asserted that this law didn’t harm Texan women she just sat back in her chair, actually leaning back quite far, crossed her arms across her chest, gave him the side eye and said, “Really. Really?”

We are very hopeful for a 5-3 ruling. We should hear by the end of June.

So to wrap up today, I want to leave you with my dream for the future of Texas and the future all across our country where abortion care is under attack.

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’d like a world where no woman comes into my clinics thinking she is the only woman she knows 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. Women and families across the country need us, the pro-choice majority, to speak up and out. We cannot let anti-abortion rhetoric go unchallenged. We cannot allow our opposition to hijack the moral high ground.

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 each woman’s life and to listen to her story. Let’s make sure all women get this support both inside and outside our clinic doors.

We need to link arms and stand up against politicians who have tried to push safe and compassionate care out of reach. We are standing in opposition to laws like Texas’ and others like it that shut down clinics, force women to delay care, and create shame or other obstacles to abortion.

Amid this fight back let us also remember that we 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. She gets to determine the path for her life.

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

Thank you again to the team at NIRH for being such fierce allies, for standing with us for so many years, for providing the kind of support that groups on the ground truly need, and thank you to all you you. Here’s to a win for Whole Woman’s Health in the Supreme Court!

#FlashbackFriday: Watch the Whole Woman’s squad speak @ the Supreme Court!

We don’t know about you, but we’re still just recovering from last week’s oral arguments and Supreme Court rally! It’s been tough getting back into the day-to-day now that we’re no longer prepping for the biggest reproductive rights case of our generation (although now we’re playing the waiting game again as we look toward the Justices for a decision).

So, it’s understandable that we’d be spending the week reliving the moment by going back through Twitter and Instagram feeds, and re-watching the rally recordings. Our Whole Woman’s Health squad had the honor of speaking several times throughout the program, and we’ve gathered them all below for your Friday viewing pleasure 🙂

Amy Hagstrom Miller, President & CEO:

 

Dr. Bhavik Kumar, Physician @ Whole Woman’s Health:

 

Andrea Ferrigno, Corporate Vice President:

 

Marva Sadler, Director of Clinical Services:

 

You can watch the rally in its entirety here and scroll down for the entire list of speakers!

Below is the complete list of speakers:

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

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