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Report: 46% of Texas Abortion Facilities Have Closed Between April 2013 and April 2014

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This GIF shows what House Bill 2 has done to access for women’s health and what it will do when September 1st comes (image courtesy of Mother Jones).

In a new report that is the first study done on the effects of House Bill 2 since it passed last year, the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) has found that 46% of abortion facilities have closed statewide since June 2013. The study also found that the rate of abortion procedures in the state has also dropped by 13%, a significant decrease that is much steeper than any recent declines in abortion rates anywhere else in the nation. TxPEP surmises that this sharp decline is due to the decimation of abortion access in Texas overall:

The 13% decline in the state abortion rate over the past year, which corresponds to 9,200 fewer abortions annually, is steeper than recent declines in both Texas and the nation. The authors hypothesize that part of this reduction is due to the closure of clinics throughout the state, generally because of doctors’ inability to obtain hospital admitting privileges. Between April 2013 and April 2014, 46% of facilities providing abortion closed, leaving large areas of the state without a clinic. All of the clinics south of San Antonio have closed, and all but one have closed in West Texas.

Another part of TxPEP’s findings was an increase in the amount of Texas women who live 100 miles or more from the nearest abortion clinic. The number has gone from 217,000 women in May of 2013 to an astounding 1,020, 000 in April of 2014. The most shocking finding out of this information is that, after all clinics have to meet the requirements of an ambulatory surgical center on September 1st and all but 6 clinics in the entire state will shut down, the number of women living 100 miles or more away from an abortion clinic in Texas will rise to 1, 335, 000.

Overall, the new report from TxPEP shows that access to abortion has decreased just as we predicted would happen when the study began last year. With the influx of women traveling long distances to the remaining open clinics and overloading the existing infrastructure that providers have, wait times, cost, and lack of enough funding force women into unwanted pregnancies. Many are faced with barriers to access already with the destruction of family planning budgets across the state, and as the number of clinics in Texas dwindle down to single digits, it’s no wonder that the rate of abortion procedures is following suit.

You can read the abstract on the study here, as well as an extremely in-depth analysis on the study here from RH Reality Check.

As the damage that House Bill 2 has inflicted on women in Texas becomes more and more apparent, Whole Woman’s Health will be here to advocate and care for these women in the facilities that remain open. You can donate to the Whole Woman’s Texas Action Fund or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more updates from us on how we’re helping women access safe, affordable abortion care.

WWH of San Antonio Now Offering Full Range of Gynecological Services

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As we get closer and closer to September 1st and the inevitable shuttering of all but six clinics in the entire state of Texas, we’re preparing to have women come to our clinic in San Antonio for many different services. We know that abortion is just one part of a full spectrum of healthcare that women need.

Starting this month, we’ll be offering annual pelvic exams, STI/STD testing, pap smears (and treatment for abnormal pap smears), contraception counseling, UTI and yeast infection treatment, IUD consultation and insertion, and other gynecological services. We offer a non-judgmental atmosphere and have open and honest conversations with our patients whether they’re a teenager, someone who is LGBTQ, or just nervous to talk about their personal health.

Whole Woman’s Health of San Antonio is contracted with most major insurance carriers including United Healthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Humana. We are also proud to offer extremely affordable prices for uninsured patients. We employ some of the most licensed, trained, and professional staff available to providers to bring you the best service. Call us to find out more about our pricing, discounts and availability.

We think birth control is for everyone.

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Justice Anthony Kennedy (left) was one of the five male Supreme Court Justices who sided with Hobby Lobby on Monday, saying that a corporation has the right to deny female employees birth control coverage due to the company’s “religious beliefs”. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (right) wrote a scorching dissenting opinion on the case’s decision, which was joined by the other three female justices of the court.

Recently the Supreme Court heard Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, a case concerning a key provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that required employers’ health insurance plans to offer contraceptive coverage for their employees. Hobby Lobby, who officially won the case yesterday, sued to be exempted from the provision due to the “deeply held religious beliefs” of their company that being required to offer birth control coverage to their employees is equivalent to abortion. It is important to note that Hobby Lobby’s 401K program invests in pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers that produce various forms of birth control – from the pill to emergency contraception to the IUD – as well as drugs used during procedures in abortion care.

The case deeply divided the court with the concurring side being all five male justices while the dissenting side was all four female justices. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in particular wrote a sharp dissenting opinion, saying that the court, she fears, “has ventured into a minefield.”

You can still obtain safe and accessible reproductive healthcare, including birth control, from any one of our locations across the nation in Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Baltimore, or Minneapolis. Find our clinic locations here or call us for directions and pricing on what we offer. We welcome all into our doors with no judgement or shame for what you’re coming to us for.

A patient talks about her frustration with Texas politics

This is part of an ongoing collection of women’s stories in Whole Woman’s Health clinics that we will be posting all week. These women have all had to struggle and jump through different hoops as a result of the passage of House Bill 2 in July of 2013, and they deserve to have their stories told.

A patient called Whole Woman’s Health of Fort Worth (the closest clinic to her) to make an appointment for an abortion after recently finding out that she was pregnant. Whole Woman’s Health of Fort Worth did not have an appointment available for her within that week, and since the patient didn’t want to make the procedure more expensive by waiting for an appointment to open up, she drove to the next available clinic: Whole Woman’s Health of Austin.

After driving to Austin, she didn’t realize that she would have to wait 24 hours after her first appointment to have the procedure itself (the state of Texas requires women to undergo a sonogram and then wait 24 hours before they have an abortion). Had there not been an appointment for a procedure available for her the next day, she would have had to go back to Fort Worth and then come back to Austin for the next available appointment, forcing her to wait until a longer point in the pregnancy before she could get an abortion.

“It’s inconvenient,” she said. “It’s obvious [the Texas legislature] is trying to make it as difficult as possible.”

The patient didn’t realize there were so many restrictions just to have an abortion in Texas. After traveling from Fort Worth to Austin, having to undergo the 24-hour waiting period, and then unexpectedly staying in a hotel to have her procedure the next day, she was fed up with the red tape.

“How is this happening? Is nobody voting anymore?”

How is this happening

To read more personal stories and/or to speak up and have your voice heard about the harmful affects of House Bill 2, go to www.fightbacktx.com.

A Patient at Whole Woman’s Health of San Antonio Talks About Making Decisions for Herself

This is part of an ongoing collection of women’s stories in Whole Woman’s Health clinics that we will be posting all week. These women have all had to struggle and jump through different hoops as a result of the passage of House Bill 2 in July of 2013, and they deserve to have their stories told.

“Maybe it’s not about how you got here, but how you view and handle the situation.”

That was the epiphany that a patient at Whole Woman’s Health of San Antonio had while waiting to be seen by our physician for her abortion procedure. Her story, like many others’, starts out feeling uncertain, scared, and self-deprecating for choosing to not be pregnant at that point in her life. All of these feelings faded away as she deconstructed her own preconceived notions about abortion and realized that she is there because she was able to make a decision, one that she felt was best for her and the family that she’s already caring for.

An important part about being able to choose whether or not to have an abortion is an important factor of freedom of choice in general.

“I don’t think women experience abortion with just their uterus — they experience it with their emotions, their self-identities, their belief systems, and I think the religious right has latched onto that to attach stigma to it and utilize it as a method of control. Whatever your choice, you didn’t get pregnant to have an abortion or to be faced with that kind of decision. That’s the thing that we need to talk about. We have to live in a society where people are able to make choices for their own lives, and we have to have some empathy for that experience and not just the outcome.”

Amy Hagstrom Miller   |President and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health|

This is what the patient said about her choice:

I wasn’t raised to believe in abortions. It’s considered a sin and I put myself in this position and I know I’ll probably regret this for the rest of my life. There are many people that don’t know and a few others that I’ve hurt in the process. I’ve lost the trust of my best friend and right now I don’t know how to amend this situation yet, but I feel that this is the best thing for me right now. I have two other children that I can barely provide for, that need all the attention I have left. Maybe it’s not about how you got here, but how you view and handle the situation. I am my own person and I’m living my life the best that I can right now. Right now, this is the best decision for my life and my future. 

04/18/14
[patient's name withheld]

To read more personal stories and/or to speak up and have your voice heard about the harmful affects of House Bill 2, go to www.fightbacktx.com.

Maybe it's not about how you got here

“They don’t have abortion clinics up there at all.”

This is part of an ongoing collection of women’s stories in Whole Woman’s Health clinics that we will be posting all week. These women have all had to struggle and jump through different hoops as a result of the passage of House Bill 2 in July of 2013, and they deserve to have their stories told.

“They don’t have abortion clinics up there at all,” said one of our patients at Whole Woman’s Health of Austin last week. She left her shift at a local casino in Lake Charles, LA and drove the 4.5 hours one way to Austin to get an abortion.

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After discovering she was 13 weeks pregnant, the patient decided that she wasn’t able to have another child, especially since she already has a 7-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a 3-year-old that her mom had to watch while she drove to Austin for her procedure. Not only is she now part of the 1 in 3 women in the United States that will get an abortion, she is also part of the 60% of women that have abortions that also already have children.

Before March, this patient would have been able to access safe abortion care at Whole Woman’s Health of Beaumont, which is about an hour’s drive from Lake Charles and just west of the border between Louisiana and Texas. Since our Beaumont clinic is not able to meet the standards of an Ambulatory Surgical Center as laid out by House Bill 2, we had to close after serving the women of East Texas and surrounding Louisiana communities for almost 10 years with safe, compassionate abortion care.

The patient was able to get an appointment at Whole Woman’s Health of Austin quickly, though it’s unfortunate that she was forced to drive over 600 miles round-trip to obtain healthcare that she so desperately needed.

To read more personal stories and/or to speak up and have your voice heard about the harmful effects of House Bill 2, go to http://www.fightbacktx.com.

“If they don’t have clinics like this, where are they going to go?”

Throughout this week, we’ll be posting different stories from patients at our clinics in Texas that are feeling the affect that House Bill 2 has had on our locations in Austin, Fort Worth, and San Antonio.

One patient at Whole Woman’s Health of Austin talked about not planning on ever having kids, and how her husband was supposed to have a vasectomy before she found out that she was pregnant:

“I’m from Fort Worth, but it was faster to come here. I couldn’t get into any clinics in Fort Worth or Dallas until the end of the month.”

The patient talked about being pregnant at 6.5 weeks and already being able to tell that her body just wasn’t ready, and that it seems like every generation has to fight some sort of battle when it comes to making decisions about their own bodies.

“It’s just the next generation and the next generation. We should be able to do whatever we want with our own bodies. Women need to have an affordable place where they feel safe and comfortable. If they don’t have clinics like this, where are they going to go?”

As women come to our clinics seeking an abortion, we have been collecting their stories as a testament to the state of reproductive healthcare in Texas leading up to the anniversary of Wendy Davis’ filibuster and the signing of House Bill 2 in July of 2013.

To read more personal stories and/or to speak up and have your voice heard about the harmful affects of House Bill 2, go to www.fightbacktx.com.

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Crisis Pregnancy Centers in Minnesota and Maryland

You may remember when we mapped out every single Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC) in Texas, creating a haunting picture for what the landscape looks like for women seeking abortions in the 2nd largest state in the country by both population and land mass. Not only did we want to show just how much the state funds these clinics over abortion facilities, but we also wanted to help women that are seeking abortions to  know where they can obtain the procedure without shame, misinformation, or intimidation.

Our clinics in Baltimore and Minneapolis deliver the same standard of care that we’re known for in Texas – creating a sanctuary for the women that need our help while providing safe, compassionate abortion care. While both of these cities are located in states that are much friendlier to abortion providers, the women that live there are no less affected by the lies and coercion of CPCs within the borders of Maryland or Minnesota.

From our previous blogpost:

If you or someone you know is seeking an abortion, always make sure and check that the clinic you are going to is an abortion facility and not a CPC. Even if you search for abortion on Google, you are likely going to see ads for “free pregnancy tests” that are coming from CPCs right next to the ads for actual licensed abortion clinics. 

Below are interactive maps that we’ve created to make sure you know which facilities to avoid if you or someone you know is seeking an abortion in Maryland or Minnesota.

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Maryland

Did we miss one? Let us know in the comments!

Our San Antonio Clinic Administrator Speaks Out on Faith and Reproductive Access

Our clinic administrator in San Antonio, Lucy, spoke at the Lifting Faith Voices in Reproductive Justice Event in Dallas last week to a crowd of pro-choice people of faith. Having worked in our McAllen location before transferring to San Antonio, Lucy spoke about why she believes that a woman’s decision to have an abortion should have nothing to do with her religion, ethnicity, or culture and everything to do with her own individual situation and identity.

Below is the Lucy’s full speech, which received a standing ovation from the crowd:

Thank you to all this evening’s co-sponsors for allowing me to speak to you tonight.

My experience is just one of many. I’m not only here to represent myself, but also my Whole Woman’s Health family and people across the state of Texas who continue to fight these laws that directly affect women in our communities including women within the Rio Grande Valley. We see and care for women of every background, every faith and from every economic situation. We talk to them, we hear their stories, we hold their hands and we have even listened to their prayers, their hopes and their fears.

The reason why I choose to do the work that I do is because I believe that every woman regardless of her ethnicity, culture or religion has every right to make a life changing decision freely because it’s what best for her individual situation. It had nothing to do with what lawmakers feel or what their beliefs are. This decision may or may not be the easiest decision for her to make, but we have to respect and understand that it’s the best decision for her.

Throughout my years as a patient advocate with Whole Woman’s Health, I’ve heard the most saddening, horrific stories. Stories from women who came from a catholic, traditional and even most cases- a low income household where family planning- including abortion- was never a topic of discussion.

Many women came to us feeling frightened, confused and ashamed. They question their religious and spiritual values, often thinking that they will be judged or ridiculed by us, their friends, their communities, their families or even by their own religion. And so many times, we have to help her with an unconditional, non-judgmental approach, deconstruct those feelings about her values and beliefs in a way that she understands that abortion care is a part of her reproductive options.

It’s important to me and to my Whole Woman’s Health family that we continue to educate women in our communities about the misinformation about abortion care. It shouldn’t be this taboo thing. Its healthcare and it’s necessary.

Those in Austin and Washington who make decisions and choices for these women don’t know them or what’s best for their individual situations. We know them. We know their struggles first hand.

We share in their heartache and share in their relief and joy at finding a safe place where caring providers will listen to them and help them get the care that they need.

I thank you for honoring my work with Whole Woman’s Health here tonight, but I am just one of many who care for the women of Texas and care about what’s right for them, for their health and that of their families.

We stand with the women of Texas and I’m proud to be here to accept your appreciation on their behalf.

Thank you. 

Our Second Lawsuit against House Bill 2

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From the Center for Reproductive Rights:

Just a few days after a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit refused to block two provisions of a far-reaching and unconstitutional legislative attack on women’s rights and health care passed in Texas last summer—a measure that has since closed several abortion clinics and created a devastating health care crisis for countless women—the Center for Reproductive Rights has gone back to court today to file a new lawsuit against House Bill 2.

The new federal lawsuit, Whole Woman’s Health, et al., v. Lakey, et al., comprises two parts. First, it seeks an immediate court order blocking the law’s requirement that abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals as it applies to Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen and Reproductive Health 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.

Second, the lawsuit seeks to strike down HB2’s provision that every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the same building requirements as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs). The requirement, which is set to take effect September 1, would force reproductive health clinics offering abortion care to either rebuild from the ground up and become essentially mini-hospitals or close entirely—leaving fewer than 10 clinics in a state with a female population of 13 million. There would not be a single abortion clinic west or south of San Antonio, forcing many women to endure a roundtrip of more than a thousand miles to access safe and legal abortion services or cross state lines.

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

“In our rush to do all we can to comply with yet another restriction placed on women’s access to abortion in Texas we cannot lose sight of the bigger picture; we must reject the premises these laws were passed on at its base and fight to block them going into effect, or get them overturned.

“Our elected officials lied to all of us, HB2 has nothing to do with improving women’s health and safety; but rather it is a proven and successful strategy to end safe abortion care for women in Texas.”

 “For too long elected officials in Texas have played political football with women’s lives. We are disappointed to have to file this lawsuit today, but we are committed to the women of Texas. Whole Woman’s Health will be here no matter what, fighting these laws and fighting to keep our clinics open and of service to the women who need us.”

 Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen has been unable to provide abortion services to their patients since the admitting privileges requirement took effect in November 2013 and most recently closed its doors entirely, leaving the Rio Grande Valley without an abortion provider and continuing to force women to travel 300 hundred miles roundtrip to the next nearest clinic.  In El Paso, Reproductive Health Services was initially able to obtain temporary privileges at a local hospital, but those privileges are set to expire next month.

In addition to Whole Woman’s Health and Reproductive Services, the Center also represents Abortion Advantage, Austin Women’s Health Center; Killeen Women’s Health Center; and a group of physicians who provide abortion services at these clinics.

The clinics and physicians in today’s lawsuit are represented by Stephanie Toti and Esha Bhandari of the Center for Reproductive Rights, and John H. Bucy II, an Austin attorney.

The Center—along with other reproductive health advocates and providers—initially filed a joint lawsuit against HB2 in September 2013, challenging the law’s unconstitutional restrictions on medication abortion as well as the admitting privileges requirement. The admitting privileges provision was initially struck down, but then took effect on October 31, 2013 after a decision by the Fifth Circuit to stay the lower court’s injunction.  The results have been nothing short of devastating, leaving thousands of women who are already facing extremely limited reproductive health care options due to drastic family planning cuts in 2011 without access to health care and several clinics closing their doors across the state. Just last week­, the Fifth Circuit ultimately upheld both the admitting privileges requirement as applied to all clinics in the state and the restrictions on medication abortion.

Said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“We filed this lawsuit to stop the second-largest state in the nation from plunging millions of women back into the darkness and grave danger of illegal abortion that Roe v. Wade was supposed to end.

“If these legislative attacks on women’s health care continue to take effect, fewer than 10 clinics will be available to provide abortion care to Texas’s 13 million women. Many women will suddenly face a round trip as far as 1,000 miles from their homes to obtain abortion care in Texas.

“There is no question that the politicians who passed this law intended this as the final blow in their assault on women’s constitutional right and ability to safely and legally end a pregnancy in Texas.

“It is an affront to women’s dignity, endangering their health, well-being, and lives. It is an attack on the U.S. Constitution, and the rights it guarantees all of us to make our own decisions about our families without interference from politicians, and it must be struck down.”