Amy Hagstrom Miller: Today, We Made History

I am beyond elated. Every day Whole Woman’s Health treats our patients with compassion, respect and dignity – and with this historic decision, today the Supreme Court did the same. We’re thrilled that justice was served and our clinics stay open.

After years of fighting heartless, anti-abortion Texas politicians who would seemingly stop at nothing to push abortion out of reach, I want everyone to understand: you don’t mess with Texas, you don’t mess with Whole Woman’s health, and you don’t mess with this beautiful, powerful movement of people dedicated to reproductive health, rights, and justice.

Three years ago, Texas politicians passed HB 2, a regressive law aimed directly at women who have decided to end a pregnancy and those of us who provide their care. With no legitimate medical justification, politicians forced abortion providers to completely restructure our clinics or to build mini hospitals. HB 2 forced more than half of Texas’ abortion clinics to close – including several of my own. Click here to help us keep clinics open.

These closures have put a staggering burden on Texas women. With this clinic shutdown law, politicians forced Texas women seeking abortion to go to clinics that are further away or in another state; take more days off of work, lose income, find childcare, and arrange and pay for transportation to travel hundreds of miles. For many, the process of obtaining safe and legal health care has become an onerous, grueling feat or just flat out impossible.

I hold in my heart all those women and families who were forced to forgo care as a result of Texas’ draconian anti-choice laws.

Today’s decision marks a turnaround for Texas and for our country, but let me be clear: this win doesn’t mean the struggle is over. First, clinics don’t reopen overnight. We have a daunting task ahead of us to determine whether and how we can reopen our health centers that were forced to shut their doors over the past several years. Renewing leases, hiring staff, and working with communities that we previously served to help us re-open for care.

And second, this decision only addressed two of the many, many restrictions women face to get abortion care in Texas. Now we must redouble our efforts across the country to end similar state restrictions that push abortion out of reach for too many women. It’s time to pass proactive state laws so a woman has access to quality clinics in her community, can afford abortion, and doesn’t face shame or stigma when she seeks care.

From day one, Whole Woman’s Health rejected HB 2’s insulting premise and we fought back. We took on the bully politicians. We have struggled every day since then against anti-choice, regressive policies and our opposition’s best efforts to shut us down.

And we won.

I am proud to continue providing holistic and high-quality care not only in Texas, but also in Maryland, New Mexico, Minnesota, and Illinois. Today, we made history and tomorrow, we get back to work so that every woman who seeks abortion services can get the health care she needs with dignity and respect.

 

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Waiting for SCOTUS: Ten memorable moments in the fight against HB2

It’s official: Monday morning we will get an answer from the Supreme Court regarding our fight against the Texas omnibus HB2 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. We have been in this for three years now, ever since Wendy Davis made her historic filibuster. Now, years of small victories and devastating clinic closures are coming to some kind of an end that only Monday will tell.

Continue on to read some of our favorite moments along this journey, as we count down to the final announcement.

#10. When the ACLU of Texas accused the state of hiding evidence showing the real impact of HB2 

This happened just recently, but still deserves a spot on the list. The entire premise of the omnibus HB2, at least in the verbiage of Texas officials, was to protect ‘women’s health and safety.’ Well, the data has been collected and where is it? Have you seen it? No, and neither have we.

From the ACLU:

“The State of Texas claims that HB2 protects women’s health. If that’s true, why wouldn’t our public health agency want to trumpet its success?”

Good question.

#9 – We launched Shift., our non profit dedicated to fighting abortion stigma!

We have long touted that abortion stigma is what creates the climate for anti-choice laws to thrive. The silence and shame make room for public discourse that is harmful, full of fear, and simply untrue. Providing compassionate abortion care free of stigma has always been a cornerstone of our work at Whole Woman’s Health, and so it only made sense to expand that into a new non profit, Shift., that was launched in the spring of 2015.

 

We are proud of the work Shift. has done in just over a year – from implementing a Safe Abortion hotline for people seeking clarity on the laws and options, to a beautiful mural covering the exterior wall of Whole Woman’s Health of McAllen. Now, Shift. is looking forward and working to keep Texas clinics open, regardless of the SCOTUS outcome. Click here to help.

#8 – John Oliver’s amazing takedown of TRAP Laws

It pretty much made our year to hear our story being told in that delightful British accent. You can watch it again here:

#7 – The Truth Tour

Kicking off this past January, on the 43rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, we embarked on a multi-city #FightBackTX Truth Tour to rally with Texas communities and remind ourselves that this is a journey that started in Texas. We were in excellent company – joined by coalition partners from NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, Texas Freedom Network, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, Shift., ACLU of Texas, as well as Lilith Fund, Texas Equal Access Fund, Clinic Access Support Network, South Texans for Reproductive Justice, West Fund, URGE, and more!

Over the course of those 2,000 miles, we watched students boldly perform the abortion stories from the 1 in 3 Campaign’s Out of Silence on the quad at Texas A&M. We marched down Main Street in McAllen yelling ‘BASTA!’, and we opened up our San Antonio clinic so local and national media could experience what expensive, stigmatizing, and unnecessary regulations actually looked like.

 

#6 – Listening to our physicians open up and advocate for abortion access

We don’t know a single person who works in abortion care for the paycheck. This is not a job for people who just want to punch in and out. We receive gratitude and thanks from the patients we serve and threats from people who want to make abortion illegal. Our physicians not excluded. We have been moved by their courage in coming forward and speaking openly about their work as abortion providers and are honored to work by their side.

That was my foundation: if there are no abortion providers, what’s going to happen to the women that need to access this health care, if people like me aren’t around? I’m not the only abortion provider in Texas, but there’s a small number of us, and I worried when I was in med school, if I don’t come back, who is going to provide abortions in Texas?

– Dr. Bhavik Kumar, The Texas Observer

 

Here’s where [HB2]’s intentional unworkability kicks in. To keep admitting privileges, I would have to admit a certain number of patients to the hospital. But abortion in the vast majority of cases is a simple and safe procedure, and very few patients ever require follow-up or emergency care afterward. So because the vast majority of my patients never needed follow-up care, I lost my privileges.

– Dr. Timothy Spurrell, Time

#5 – The Amicus Briefs

The Amicus, or ‘friend of the court’ briefs, are an opportunity for people to speak on behalf of us and our case, to paint for the court a full picture of the impact of these laws. The amicus briefs submitted by the Center for Reproductive Rights are some of the largest in number and breadth in the history of the Supreme Court. There are personal stories that that brought us to tears – experiences from doctors and lawyers and advocates from across the country. There are submissions from organizations we admire as well as from blue states and cities and policy makers.

These briefs are a passionate reminder that we are on the side of justice and autonomy and that this decision will have deeply personal and wide scale implications.

Click here to read the briefs.

#4 – TRAPPED

To have our struggles against these laws documented (by an amazing filmmaker, no less) and then to see them play out on the silver screen along with our colleagues throughout the South is indescribable. Yes, there were many, many tears, and we definitely experienced all the feels.

So often it seems like our efforts to stay open, to be there for our patients are invisible to those outside of abortion care. We hear it so often: ‘I had no idea this was happening until I became pregnant.’ Dawn Porter’s Trapped is a beautiful and moving answer to this problem. It has received glowing reviews from across the country, including winning the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking at the Sundance Film Festival. Most recently, Trapped aired on PBS’ Independent Lens. You can stream the full film here.

#3 – The Rally at the Supreme Court

On the particularly chilly morning of March 2nd, we stood outside of the Supreme Court with thousands of allies and supporters, listening to stories from across the country. Yes it would have been amazing to gaze upon the glory that is RBG, but the Rally at the Supreme Court to Protect Abortion Access was an experience of a lifetime and definitely worth the trip.

 

#2 – The Oral Arguments

But also let’s be real – most of us would have given just about anything to have watched the Justices duke it out over abortion rights. And, according to the transcript and audio recordings, it was goooooooooood.

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#1 – Wendy Davis. The People’s Filibuster. The Orange Army. #FightBackTX.

This is where it started. Two special sessions. Two filibusters. A nationally trending hashtag. Those pink Mizunos. State officials said that they’ve never seen anything like it in all their time working at the Capitol.

These sessions brought new life and new faces to our movement, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without everyone who dropped what they were doing, put on their orange, and flooded the Capitol in outrage. You did this! You showed up. You fought back. And you ushered us to the Supreme Court.

Relive it again:

 

 

 

 

 

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Honorary mentions go to the SCOTUS Blog, where we will forever be #waitingforlyle, and decision day GIFs.

What do you think? Did we get it right? Did we miss anything? Let us know!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

#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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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