Thursday, March 16, 2017

First Abortion Clinic to Reopen After Texas Law Forces 21 to Close

Posted By on Thu, Mar 16, 2017 at 3:09 PM

click to enlarge LORIE SHAULL VIA WHOLE WOMEN'S HEALTH
  • Lorie Shaull via Whole Women's Health

Next month, one of the 21 abortion clinics forced to close by Texas' sweeping anti-abortion law will reopen. It'll be the first clinic to open in Texas since the Supreme Court overruled the law, HB2, in 2016 — and will be run by the very clinic that pushed this fight all the way up to the nation's highest court.

"Today I am thrilled to announce that we will take the first step... to restore the fabric of care across our state that Texans have come to count on," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman’s Health, in a Thursday morning press release. "WE ARE BACK!”

But it's taken far longer than any Texas abortion provider had hoped.

Signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry in 2013, House Bill 2 focused mostly on tweaking building code requirements to force abortion clinics to either undergo costly building upgrades (like widening all hallways by just a few inches) or shutter. In a matter of months, the law — promised by its authors to improve women's health and safety — successfully closed 21 of the state's 40 clinics.

Whole Women's Health, forced to closed two of it's three Texas clinics, sued the state (with the help of Center for Reproductive Rights attorneys) in 2014, arguing that the law had no real benefits and merely existed to make it harder for abortion providers to provide crucial, legal health care to Texas women. The Supreme Court agreed, reversing HB2 and its unnecessary restrictions with a single vote.

But it wasn't as if the 19 shuttered clinics could just reopen their doors the very next day. Or month. Or year. The state had run them out of business, meaning most providers had lost their building space, medical equipment, and (most importantly) doctors. WWH, however, could afford to keep paying the lease on its McAllen and Austin facilities — at least, for a while.

"After all of the political attacks from HB2, I made the commitment that as soon as I could reopen in Austin, I would do just that," Hagstrom Miller said Thursday. But it couldn't have happened without community and volunteer support, she added.

Fatimah Gifford, spokeswoman for WWH, said the organization hasn't settled on the exact date it'll open the doors of the Austin clinic, but it will be sometime by the end of April. Once it opens, the clinic will be one of 19 abortion clinics serving Texas' state's 5.4 million women of reproductive age.

For Stephanie Toti, the lead attorney in WWH's case in the Supreme Court, the clinic's reopening isn't just a move toward improving women't health care in Texas.

"It shows the power of legal advocacy to move us toward a more just world," she wrote in a Thursday statement.

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