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.
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.”
After waiting for the 5th Circuit Court to hand down their ruling on the provisions of House Bill 2, we are unsurprised today to find out that they have found the bill and its restrictions to be constitutional.
Here is a response from Amy Hagstrom Miller, our Founder, President, and CEO, in regards to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upholding restrictions of HB2 that has caused clinics across the state to close and leaving many women without access to safe, abortion care.
“We are not surprised by this ruling from the Fifth Circuit– justice has not been served with this ruling. Texas has left thousands of women and families behind in its crusade to end safe abortion by any means necessary and they are using women’s bodies and women’s lives in a political football game. Texas women deserve right to the same safe and professional healthcare that women receive all across America.
Our hearts are heavy today because we know the women who are left behind.
The legislators lied when they said this law wouldn’t close clinics.
This law has closed clinics.
This law has denied women access to safe care.
This law is now and will in the future do great damage to the healthcare infrastructure in the state of Texas.
Whole Woman’s Health is doing all that we can to keep our clinics open and to fight these laws but we cannot do it alone. It’s time for Texans to wake up.”
Last Thursday, we announced the closures of two of our Texas facilities in McAllen and Beaumont. After serving the communities of the Rio Grande Valley and East Texas for over 10 years with the safest and most compassionate abortion care that women can access, we had no other choice but to close our doors because of overzealous regulations passed by the Texas legislature.
We had a small public event behind our McAllen facility with speeches from our Founder and CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller, Whole Woman’s Health Corporate Vice President Andrea Ferrigno, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Executive Director Heather Busby, ACLU Texas Executive Director Terri Burke, and Paula Saldaña of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. Each spoke of how important it is to keep abortion care safe and accessible, and how damaging the closures of our clinics will be to Texan’s well-being.
In Beaumont, a private event was held that was live-streamed to McAllen so that we could all share the sombering moment together. WWH Director of Medical Services Marva Sadler spoke during the event, and was accompanied by all former employees of WWH of Beaumont as well as our WWH Director of PR and Marketing Fatimah Gifford.
Here’s a video recap, as well as the transcript of Amy Hagstrom Miller’s speech:
Thank you for joining us today.
It is with great sadness that I am announcing that today Whole Woman’s Health will be closing our McAllen and Beaumont clinics because of the new, medically unnecessary guidelines required by HB 2.
Closing our clinics hurts us–but more importantly, it hurts the communities we have served. My heart goes out to those will no longer be served safely or compassionately in these small, diverse, rural areas of our state. We are so, so sorry to be forced to turn you away when you relied on us to care for you.
For the women and families of Texas, justice has not been served. HB 2 is an injustice to those in Texas seeking the legal right to end an unwanted pregnancy safely. It is an injustice to those outside Texas who traveled here because an abortion was too difficult to obtain in their home states or in their home country.
Since HB2 passed, and now 19 clinics having closed because of it, too many women have already been forced to delay their abortions by weeks, or even as much as a month, while they wait for an opening at clinic. They are struggling to find the money to cover the expenses of gas, a bus ticket, or child care. And we expect that the number of women who self-induce without medical care will rise even beyond the already-alarming rate shown by a recent Texas study.
Ours are not the first clinics to close in the state and, unfortunately, they are far from the last. There are now just 24 clinics left in the state of Texas, that’s almost half of the number of clinics open having 44 clinics open just three years prior in 2011. When September arrives, and the full force of HB 2 is put into effect, that number will likely be just 6.
As we close our doors, I am overcome with sadness for the people of Texas today. But I have so many other feelings as I think about the cause of these closing.
When the Texas legislature convened not just one, but two special sessions for the sole purpose of passing a bill that would require medically unnecessary regulations and hospital admitting privileges, they said they were not trying to make safe, legal abortion unavailable. They said these laws were needed to protect the health of those requiring abortion care. They lied.
They lied when they introduced the bill for the first time and it became obvious that it was not written to safeguard women’s health but to close nearly every abortion provider in the state.
They lied when they claimed that the bill passed — just seconds before the clock ran out in the waning moments of the first special session of the summer. They continued to lie about their intent when they announced that they would be holding a second special session, when they reintroduced the exact same bill that was shouted to a halt by the thousands of bill opponents filling the gallery of the capitol, and in front of the hundreds of thousands of witnesses watching the proceedings at home. Many of us were there. And we are still watching.
At every step of the way, legislators have misled the people Texas, saying they were not trying to close down our clinics, that they weren’t trying to cut off care. Now, we can see the truth. We shut our doors today because of political interference, plain and simple.
And there is one other reason we were forced to close: the medical professionals in our state who are too scared and refuse to speak out in public support of us.
For years we have cared for Texas’s sisters, daughters, mothers, aunts, wives and girlfriends. The physicians in our communities have referred countless people to us, trusting us with the lives of their patients, knowing each one of them would be respected and treated safely and kindly. The hospitals in our communities rarely see any of our patients – they know the safe abortion care we have provided is an integral part of the healthcare system. Yet they too have remaining silent and did not step up to do right by the women in Rural Texas.
Those medical professionals could have helped us keep our clinics open, yet they have remained silent. For years we have been able to manage, without their public help or support, without them acknowledging our work or that they sent their patients here. And we took care of their patients quietly, compassionately and with medical excellence.
Now, things are different. We can’t fight this all on our own, we can’t be here without the support of this medical community. We need these physicians to acknowledge their long silent relationship with us. We need them to help us get the privileges that the state – not the medical community, but elected officials with no medical background – deem necessary for us to continue to operate. We need these doctors to talk to their hospitals on our behalf. We needed them to advocate for us in the same way that we have always advocated for their patients’ care.
Those doctors have failed to do so. They have remained silent and we have been left to stand on our own. We ask those doctors who would not step up for us: where will you send your patients now? We ask the hospital boards: how will you care for the women who come to your ER with botched abortions, or with bleeding and infections; afraid?
Today, our two clinics that have safely and professionally served local women ever since abortion became legal 40 years ago will close their doors, simply because politicians in Austin decided that they shouldn’t be allowed to operate. Thousands of women will be denied local access to safe and professional abortion care for the first time since Roe v. Wade. For far too many, abortion continues to be legal in the state but in reality is simply out of reach.
Now, without us they are left behind.
Let me conclude my remarks this evening by speaking to the women of this community directly on behalf of myself and all the doctors and staff who have served these communities through work at Whole Woman’s Health of Beaumont and Whole Woman’s Health of McAllen. Those of you here with us who are WWH team members please join me up here as we thank this community. And Marva, Fatimah, Brittany, Shaye and everyone else from Beaumont – you are here with us too.
From the bottom of our hearts we say to you that it has truly been our honor and our privilege to serve the women in East Texas and Western Louisiana; The Rio Grande valley and Northern Mexico over all these years. We are thankful to have been able to listen to your hearts, to have held your hands, to have wiped away your tears, to have laughed with you through the nerves and anxieties as well as the relief you felt after it was all done. You mujeres are powerful, you are strong, you are resourceful and you truly amaze us. We have been blessed to have served you and we thank you for 10 wonderful years.
The politicians may have closed our clinics, but we will always be here with you. We are not giving up and we will fight back, for women and for Texas.
Thank you to all of our supporters in Texas and nationwide that have shared their condolences to our company and the women that we serve. Even with the major setbacks that we’ve faced and will face in the aftermath of House Bill 2, we continue to serve women in the communities of Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Baltimore, and Minneapolis. We pledge to continue fighting and advocating for safe, affordable abortion access to any woman in any zip code. If you’re wondering which clinics are still open and which clinics have closed, you can look at this map made by Andrea Grimes of RH Reality Check.
Today, Whole Woman’s Health turns 11 years old. From opening our first clinic in Austin in 2003 to expanding to seven other communities across Texas, Maryland, and Minnesota, we’ve been putting our patients at the center of everything that we do. 2013 was a very tough year for us, but we’ve weathered the storm so far to keep abortion safe and accessible as long as we can.
Here’s to our supporters, our colleagues, our patients, our families, and our friends. Join us as we keep serving our communities, old and new, through 2014 and beyond.
Yesterday, an article written by Andrea Grimes of RH Reality Check investigated the lack of abortion access in the Rio Grande Valley, featuring our clinic in McAllen that had to stop performing abortion procedures after the implementation of House Bill 2.
“The stillness belies the many duties recently taken on by the skeleton crew of clinic workers left to manage the phone line and pre-operative counseling, seeing patients who are now facing a 300-mile round-trip drive to Corpus Christi, or a 500-mile round-trip drive to San Antonio, to the nearest safe, legal abortion providers.
‘Now I can actually hear my echoing footsteps,’ said Lucy, one of two remaining full-time clinic workers who are keeping up with day-to-day operations at Whole Woman’s McAllen in the wake of the enforcement of HB 2, Texas’ restrictive new anti-abortion law. It is late November 2013, and the doctor who performs abortions at the clinic hasn’t been able to secure admitting privileges at a local hospital, ending the abortion care that the clinic provided for the past nine years under Whole Woman’s Health name, and for 30 years before that under a prior owner.”
The article is very well-researched and informative, serving as a somber reminder that this is the reality that a post-House Bill 2 Texas is living in. Come September, the last and most damaging provision that requires all abortion clinics to be equipped to the standards of ambulatory surgical centers will go into effect, closing most of the clinics in the state and leaving rural residents at risk. Being one of the most low-income communities in the nation, the Rio Grande Valley is a primary example of where we’re headed.
When concerns for the women of the Rio Grande Valley were brought up to Judge Edith Jones during the Planned Parenthood v Abbott trial in the 5th Circuit District Court, she suggested that Texas’ flat landscape and high speed limits were enough to fix the problem. This attitude – the kind where one assumes that people living in a very low income area have the money to afford a car, gas, childcare, and time off work to drive a 300 mile roundtrip for an appointment – is not one that a public official should have when they’re deciding the fate of very influential laws that affect a lot of people.
While we wait for the 5th Circuit’s decision on House Bill 2 and our next step in fighting the law, this is the inevitable.
Today the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in McCullen v Coakley, a case in which anti-choice protesters claim that a Massachusetts buffer zone law requiring picketers to stay at least 35 feet from a clinic entrance violates their right to free speech. Should the high court side with McCullen and others, places like Portland, Maine, Colorado, Pittsburgh and Chicago would no longer be able to enforce their buffer zone laws and ordinances passed to protect patients seeking abortion care in the facilities that serve those areas.
In the case of Hill v Colorado in 2000, SCOTUS sided with Colorado’s current buffer zone law, stating that protesters’ First Amendment rights to free speech were not violated when buffer zones were enforced. In the court’s majority opinion, Justice Stevens wrote that it only makes it more difficult to give unwanted advice to someone seeking an abortion:
“Although the statute prohibits speakers from approaching unwilling listeners, it does not require a standing speaker to move away from anyone passing by. Nor does it place any restriction on the content of any message that anyone may wish to communicate to anyone else, either inside or outside the regulated areas. It does, however, make it more difficult to give unwanted advice, particularly in the form of a handbill or leaflet, to persons entering or leaving medical facilities.”
McCullen v Coakley is a direct challenge to Hill v Colorado, and the court’s decision to hear the case has abortion providers and pro-choice advocates more than a little concerned. Appeals court judges have all upheld that buffer zone laws are a good balance of rights for both protesters and the clinics that they target, giving patients and staff access to the building while also allowing picketers to maintain their right to free speech but not to incite violence or block access to clinics. When issuing his opinion on McCullen, First Circuit Judge Selya called the plaintiff’s allegations of First Amendment violation a “creative recalibration of First Amendment principles”.
As Robin Marty asks in her Think Progress piece, “By taking up McCullen, is the Supreme Court signaling it sees something different than the previous courts did?” Even though the passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act in 1994 has prohibited protesters from blocking patients and staff from clinics, buffer zones have since protected patients from further harassment that could become, and has become, violent behavior.
Buffer Zones Do as They’re Intended
The National Abortion Federation (NAF) filed an amicus brief in support of the state of Massachusetts, showing that supporting and allowing for buffer zones is a necessary way for the state to exercise its interests in protecting clinics, their staff, and their patients from violence:
“Despite these precautions, reproductive healthcare facilities regularly encounter violence and obstructed access to this day. The most recent murder of a physician who provided abortions occurred in 2009. By 2010, one out of every five reproductive healthcare facilities was afflicted by anti-abortion violence. In 2012 alone, five facilities suffered arsons. From 2007 to 2012, there were at least eight arsons, six attempted arsons or 3 bombings, 41 incidents of assault and battery, and more than 200 acts of vandalism of facilities. Much of this violence occurs in the areas immediately surrounding reproductive healthcare facilities. Given this continuing reality, a buffer zone immediately surrounding facility entrances helps secure patient and staff access to the facilities, and is a narrowly-tailored response to the States’ significant law enforcement interests. In fact, surveys show that buffer zones have decreased violence, obstruction and intimidation outside of reproductive healthcare facilities. This improved situation compels the continuation, and not the dismantling, of buffer zone laws.”
NAF also recommends buffer zones in its Legal Remedies to Address Clinic Violence and Harrassment handbook, and lists a state-by-state collection of ordinances and injunctions that help protect clinics. Though some buffer zones were struck down before the decision in Hill v Colorado, NAF believes that “if similar ordinances were introduced today they would likely survive a constitutional challenge.” In regards to McCullen, we certainly hope that’s true.
Freedom of Speech ≠ Freedom of Violence or Harassment
US News and World Report quotes President of Massachusetts Citizens for Life Anne Fox on the lawsuit:
“We consider it a First Amendment issue, because it’s a law that targets very certain facilities, just abortion facilities,” says Anne Fox, the [Massachusetts Citizens for Life] president. Protests outside corporate buildings or by animal rights activists, for example, do not have protests “buffer zones.” Fox says the zones also make it nearly impossible for anti-abortion activists to speak freely to women walking into clinics to get an abortion.
While we wholeheartedly agree that the First Amendment grants anyone the right to say and believe what they choose as well as assemble in protest, it grants no one the right to use tactics like violence, harassment, stalking, or murder as a means of “free speech”. Being forced to stand 35 feet away from the entrance to a clinic, while making it more difficult to directly engage with a patient, does not obstruct a protester’s right to assemble or tell them what they can or cannot say and believe. A buffer zone is created so that a picketer can’t get into a woman’s face, follow them to the door, or make any harmful actions against her when she’s walking into a facility.
From Adam Liptak of the New York Times writes:
Law professors defending the 2007 Massachusetts law filed a supporting brief in the case, McCullen v. Coakley, No. 12-1168, pointing out that buffer zones also exist around polling places and funerals. In a supporting brieffiled for Planned Parenthood, Walter E. Dellinger III, a former acting United States solicitor general, reminded the Supreme Court that it forbade protests on its own plaza.
As the court hears arguments today we, like many others, will be watching for the decision to see if they uphold the standards that were rightfully set in Hill. Until then the question remains: If SCOTUS interprets the creating of safe, protective spaces for women in communities with high instances of anti-choice violence as an encroachment on free speech, what kind of precedent does that set for future First Amendment cases?
We received this thank you card from a previous patient of ours at Whole Woman’s Health of Austin, thanking us for the care she experienced with the staff in the clinic and telling us how important it is that access remain open in Texas. It’s the support and empowerment from our patients that reminds us the most about just what we’re here to do and it helps us keep providing the great level of care that we’ve always provided. The inside of the card reads:
“To [name omitted] and all of the staff that helped me through a tough procedure on [date omitted]. I was the one whose blood pressure dropped like crazy not too long after the procedure. I wanted to show my gratitude for all that you did for me before, during, and after my abortion. Like many women, I never, ever thought that I would have an abortion and I was scared to death to have it done. But you all show a lot of love and gave me a new perspective on this procedure - that I’m not alone, that it’s not my fault, that it needs to be talked about, and that I should be proud for making the best decision that I could at the moment. I’m so thankful that Whole Woman’s Health exists to support women and I know my life has been changed for the better for what you all have done. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for caring and for continuing to offer women a choice and for persevering with what is probably a very difficult job. I also want to thank [name omitted] for her efforts in providing me an IUD…
…I’m so thankful for my new contraception! I’m having no issues whatsoever with it. What a miracle contraception.
Thank you all so much! Love, [name omitted].”
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.
As you may have heard last night, The Supreme Court of the United States issued a 5-4 ruling refusing to intervene into the 5th Circuit Court’s decision to allow House Bill 2 to be implemented in Texas, citing that there was not enough evidence that the court’s decision is causing harm to Texas women.
The Supreme Court’s majority opinion was a short nine pages, ending with Justice Scalia saying that “there is no doubt that the applicants have not carried their heavy burden of showing that doing so was a clear violation of accepted legal standards-which do not include a special “status quo” standard for laws affecting abortion. The Court is correct to deny the application.”
In the even shorter dissenting opinion, Justice Breyer cited four reasons for disagreeing with the court’s majority opinion. In his fourth reason, he sided with abortion providers, saying that “the balance of harms tilts in favor of the applicants” and that “If the law is invalid, the injunction properly prevented the potential for serious physical or other harm to many women whose exercise of their constitutional rights to obtain an abortion would be unduly burdened by the law. And although the injunction will ultimately be reinstated if the law is indeed valid, the harms to the individual women whose rights it restricts while it remains in effect will be permanent.”
From our press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
11/20/2013-AUSTIN, TX Thousands of women will continue to be denied their constitutional rights and access to abortion services in Texas following an order issued today by a majority of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to reinstate an injunction blocking a measure that has forced approximately one-third of the state’s licensed health centers providing safe and legal abortion to immediately stop.
In dissenting from the Court’s majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote: “Although the injunction will ultimately be reinstated if the law is indeed invalid, the harms to the individual women whose rights it restricts while it remains in effect will be permanent.”
Whole Woman’s Health is the lead plaintiff in the case represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights with clinics in Austin, Beaumont, Fort Worth, McAllen and San Antonio and has been providing safe, compassionate abortion services to women in Texas communities for over 10 years.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO and President of Whole Woman’s Health states, “The reversal of the injunction to block HB 2 has greatly affected Whole Woman’s Health staff, doctors and the women we serve all across Texas. The stories we have collected in our clinics from women and their families as they confront this injustice over the past three weeks are heartbreaking.”
The provision, which took effect on October 31 after a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stayed a lower court’s injunction, requires all abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital-a measure that has halted abortion services at more than a dozen clinics across Texas.
Hagstrom Miller continues, “The fact is that the hospital privileging process is not simple nor is it efficient. We have highly trained physicians who are qualified for privileges, and we have countless applications in to multiple hospitals throughout the state. But this is not about physician training or qualifications, this is about politics. To date, more than one hospital has denied even sending our MDs an application for privileges because of their affiliation with Whole Woman’s Health – and these are board certified, published, and accomplished OB/Gyns. Make no mistake; this law was designed to block access to abortion for Texas women. And it is working.”
Immediately after U.S District Judge Lee Yeakel issued an injunction against the measure on October 28, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott appealed the decision and asked the appellate court to lift the injunction put into place by Judge Yeakel’s decision pending the outcome of the appeal. The Fifth Circuit granted the state’s request late on October 31, allowing the state to immediately start enforcing the unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement while the case challenging the law proceeds.
Whole Woman’s Health will continue to advocate for women and find ways to help women get the safe healthcare that they need. Hagstrom Miller reminds us, “Women deserve our compassion, empathy and advocacy. We stand with Texas women.”
Our case is still expected to be heard by the Supreme Court after it goes through the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in January.