The fabric of human rights and access to abortion has collapsed in our country since our last newsletter. On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court released their decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case. The fallout has been swift as some states work quickly to pass abortion bans while others move to protect abortion access and welcome patients from out-of-state. This new reality is tragic – not only because people must remain pregnant when they don’t want to be, but because the very politicians who force them to do so also block much-needed family support systems. Due to Texas’ criminal abortion ban from the 1920s now being enforced again, we have had to close all four Texas clinics operated by WWH, including the WWHA clinic in Austin, with no hope of reopening.
Even though we can no longer provide abortions in Texas, we are nonetheless stepping up to meet this moment. WWH is raising funds to open a clinic in New Mexico, just over the Texas border, so folks in the Southwest have a trusted abortion provider nearby. The Wayfinder Program, which launched in Texas earlier this year, is taking on a national scale as we are helping people across the country travel to states where WWH can still legally operate clinics and medication abortion by mail programs. We continue to invest our WWHA clinics in Minnesota and Virginia, as well as WWH’s virtual care services, to ensure we are prepared to meet the overwhelming demand that will be placed on the clinics that survive the fall of Roe. We need your support in this dire moment. Please contribute anything you can to WWH’s move to New Mexico and/or WWHA’s surge-preparation funds.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, President & CEO
Sonja Miller, MEd, MDiv, Interim Managing Director
Abortion is Our Work
Abortion is now illegal in Texas. The shock, disbelief, and heartbreak we feel gets more real by the day. The legal turmoil has only added to that reality. After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a pre-Roe ban immediately went into effect in Texas, halting all abortion services. Just 3 days later, we joined forces with other independent providers in Texas to challenge that ban in the courts and we were granted a temporary restraining order (TRO). That TRO enabled us to provide abortions again, yet still under the confines of Senate Bill 8. After just 3 days of reprieve, the Texas Supreme Court sided with anti-abortion lawmakers and let the pre-Roe ban stand, vacating the TRO and banning abortion entirely throughout Texas. While we await a final decision from the Texas Supreme Court, Texas’ trigger ban is set to take effect soon, and we anticipate that abortion will remain banned in Texas… until there are big changes in the political arena at the state and national level.
Whole Woman’s Health of Austin is no longer open or providing abortion services. This clinic was the very start of WWH – serving as our flagship clinic in 2003. Over the years, we have navigated many political interferences to keep our doors open. Until now. We are now going through the surreal and emotional process of boxing up our equipment and supplies, terminating our lease on the property, and helping clinic staff find alternate positions. As we empty out each room, memories of patients and staff floating through the halls flood our minds – we often need to stop, cry, and breath. The grief is profound, but we know this is not the end. We will continue to fight for Texans’ abortion rights and access in any and every way we can.
In the wake of the Dobb’s decision, the Indiana legislature will be holding a special session starting on July 25, 2022. Indiana Senate leaders held a press conference this past Wednesday, and Republicans announced their plans to introduce a total abortion ban during this special session that will give exceptions only for maternal life, rape, and incest. This gives lawmakers the power to decide who is deserving of essential healthcare and puts Hoosiers at-risk of losing their 7 abortion clinics in the state, including Whole Woman’s Health of South Bend. Indiana has an anti-abortion Governor, Attorney General, and supermajority in both the House and Senate, so we expect the ban to pass. Indiana’s Attorney General asked the courts to reconsider state laws that had been blocked under Roe v. Wade, in addition to parental notification laws. This extremism is out of step with the beliefs of most Hoosiers who support the right to legal abortion.
Whole Woman’s Health of South Bend is helping as many patients as we can for as long as we can, but the clinic’s future does not look bright. With the special session next week, we are preparing for a total ban on abortions that will likely halt our services. This comes at a time when we are needed more than ever – our call volume has doubled in recent weeks due to restrictions in other states, with appointment requests coming in from KY, OH, MI, TX, and IA.
In much more positive news, there was a huge victory for abortion rights in Minnesota on July 11, 2022. In Doe v. Minnesota, a District Court has permanently blocked numerous abortion restrictions and reaffirmed state constitutional protections for abortion. See the full list of restrictions that were blocked. Minnesota is truly becoming a north star for abortion access! Shout out to WWHA Board member Stephanie Toti and the Lawyering Project for their vision in bringing this lawsuit. We are honored to work with them! Just days after the win in court, the UnRestrict Minnesota coalition hosted the “Our Future: March for Abortion Access & Rally” at the Minnesota State Capitol. The heat was oppressive, but, even so, 10,000 Minnesotans came out to show their support for abortion!
Whole Woman’s Health of Minnesota is grateful for the new abortion protections, and we have already realized these wins for our patients – no more do they have to deal with a waiting period or parental notification laws. We are hiring more doctors and looking at adding advance-practice clinicians, as well, so we are prepared for the surge of both local and traveling patients. We continue to see patients traveling from all over to get care with us in MN (from AL and OH to SD and TX) and expect that to increase as more state bans are passed. Attorney General Keith Ellison made a special visit to our clinic on July 12, 2022, along with 17 members of the legislature’s Reproductive Freedom Caucus, and Senator Tina Smith’s Health and Outreach team. It was an honor to host them in our clinic. We gave tours to each group, answered questions, and continued to bust stigmas surrounding abortion!
Earlier this week, we participated in a roundtable discussion with MN Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan. The Governor convened all of MN’s abortion providers, our allies, and abortion funds for a discussion about our needs and concerns as we navigate the post-Roe landscape. It was remarkable to have the unabashed support and feel the authentic respect from the administration. WWHA’s CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller, Medical Director Dr. Jessika Ralph, Interim Medical Director Dr. Christy Boraas, and Minnesota Advocacy Coordinator Karmann Peters each got to participate and be heard by Minnesota’s highest state leadership. THIS is what recognition of the essential healthcare that is abortion looks like!
Just two years after Virginia passed sweeping protections of abortion in the Reproductive Health Protection Act, the state’s new anti-abortion Governor is looking to reverse that progress. Governor Youngkin wants a 15-week ban introduced in the upcoming January 2023 session of the Virginia General Assembly. The ban is not likely to pass with the Senate currently controlled by Democrats, but Republicans are seeking ways to advance their anti-abortion agenda. If Republicans take over both chambers in 2023, Youngkin says he would not rule out a total ban on abortion.
Whole Woman’s Health of South Bend has seen tremendous support from the Charlottesville community since Roe fell. People are stopping by and reaching out to ask how to donate, how to help counter our protestors, and how to help our patients – all of which makes us have faith in this city to protect our clinic. We’ve seen an increase in out-of-state patients, about 2-3 appointments per week with some coming all the way from Texas. To prepare, we have been cross-training veteran staff, hiring new folks, and adding more providers to our team.
Without the federal protections of Roe v. Wade, our country is quickly descending into a crisis. The fight to protect or repeal abortion rights is escalating in state legislatures, in the courts, and at the polls across the country. Eight states have already enacted total abortion bans and 4 states have gestational limits in effect. Total bans have been temporarily blocked in 5 states, but those are likely to go into effect soon, along with 4 other states that have trigger bans starting soon. The devastation doesn’t stop there – abortion is at risk in 9 more states that may move to ban abortion in upcoming legislative sessions, including Indiana. Millions of people have been cut off from abortion access, putting the health of countless pregnant people at risk. In the end, half of all U.S. states are poised to ban abortion.
At the same time, many states have been moving to protect reproductive freedom. Executive orders and legislation to protect abortion access have been issued in California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.
On July 8, 2022, President Biden signed an executive order that attempts to safeguard access to medication abortion and emergency contraception, protect patient privacy, launch public education efforts as well as bolster the security of and legal options available to those seeking and providing abortion services. He also called on Congress to suspend the filibuster to protect abortion rights in federal law. The Department of Health & Human Services issued HIPAA guidance to clarify people’s privacy rights, explained obligations of hospitals to provide abortion in a medical emergency, and made clear that it is sex and disability discrimination for pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions because they may be used to terminate a pregnancy. The Department of Justice announced a new reproductive rights task force to protect abortion access, patients, and providers; and the Federal Trade Commission announced that it will use its authority to protect people’s privacy online, including information related to reproductive health. We applaud these initiatives and know that more actions will also be needed.
On July 15, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills to help protect abortion rights and access — the Women’s Health Protection Act and the Ensuring Women’s Right to Reproductive Freedom Act. However, the bills have little chance of becoming law, as the necessary support falls short in our current 50-50 Senate.
Shifting Abortion Stigma
Now more than ever, it’s vital that we work together to foster open and honest conversations about abortion and advocate for reproductive freedom. We continue to provide thought leadership on social media with timely, shareable posts and graphics. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to join the conversation and share with your followers.
Inside Our Abortion Clinics
A former patient of Whole Woman’s Health of Austin shared her experience with us recently: “In 2005, I came to Whole Woman’s Health for an abortion. I knew as soon as I found out I was pregnant that I would release it. I was married with two daughters and just beginning my career as a writer. Whole Woman’s Health provided a safe procedure and a welcoming atmosphere where I felt supported and empowered throughout my experience. From the front desk staff to the medical professionals, I knew I was in good hands. The vital services Whole Woman’s Health provides must be protected so that women can continue to make the best decisions for themselves, their families, and their future.”
In the News
Leading up to and in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision, we’ve been very vocal in the media about the impact of abortion bans and what we’re doing to help every person we can to get the care they deserve. We held a national press conference with over 50 reporters on June 24, 2022, giving our reaction to the fall of Roe, what it means for our clinic operations, and how we’re expanding our virtual services and Wayfinder programs to meet this moment. Since decision day, our team has also given 70 interviews with reporters for community, state, and national media outlets. We’ve been rapidly disseminating updates on our clinic operations as abortion legislation changes in the states where we operate. Make sure you check out our conversations with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Pod Save America, Jezebel, and the Star-Tribune.
How You Can Help
Without Roe, New Mexico will be one of the only southern states where abortion will remain legally protected. That’s why WWH is scrambling to move our Texas clinic operations to New Mexico – as close as possible to Texas. We know this is not a fix-all solution, but it’s our best next step to provide abortion care to Texans without the threat of prosecution. Can you make an emergency donation to help us move to New Mexico and keep offering abortion care to people who urgently need it in Texas and beyond? We made a promise to the people who rely on us when the Supreme Court ruling came down, and we are going to keep it.