The Moments Before SB 8 Went Into Effect

September 1, 2021

My name is Amy Hagstrom Miller and I am the President & CEO of Whole Woman’s Health and Woman’s Health Alliance. We are an independent abortion provider operating four clinics in the state of Texas located in Fort Worth, McKinney, Austin, and McAllen. We are the lead plaintiff in the case Whole Woman’s Health et al., v. Jackson, et al, challenging this atrocious abortion ban. You may recall that not so long-ago Whole Woman’s Health was also the lead plaintiff in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt, in a similar situation where we had to challenge multiple restrictions on access to abortion in the state of Texas that were under the umbrella law of HB2. We had a significant victory in the Supreme Court in 2016, but unfortunately part of being an abortion provider in this country, especially working in the South and Midwest, often requires litigation, a high level of advocacy, and a deep of commitment in order to keep our clinics open and available to serve the people who need access to safe abortion in our communities. So, here we are again.

This morning I woke up with a feeling of deep sadness. I’m worried. I’m numb. I’d like to take a moment to share with you what the final hours of legal abortion care looked like in Texas last night. Whole Woman’s Health had staff and physicians providing abortions in Texas until 11:56pm CST. That was the time we finished our last abortion in Fort Worth. All day, our waiting rooms were filled with patients and their loved ones in all four of our Texas clinics. They were desperate to get an abortion before this law went into effect.

Last night, we had a physician who has worked with us for decades in tears as he tried to complete the abortions for all the folks that were waiting. Marva Sadler, who is a plaintiff in this case and serves as our Senior Director of Clinical Services, was on-site working with this physician to see every single patient before the deadline. She called me at 10:00pm CST with 27 patients left in the waiting room. Both she and the physician were crying asking “What can we do? How can we be sure that we can see all these folks?” Keep in mind that the anti-abortion protesters were outside from the moment we opened at 7:30am until we closed at midnight. Once it got dark outside, they brought giant lights and shined them on the parking lot. We were under surveillance.

This ban is not abstract or theoretical. This culture of threats, intimidation and surveillance is not make-believe. This is real for our team. Yesterday, the protesters called the police twice and the fire department once in Fort Worth – all in an attempt to find some law that we might be breaking, some way to stop us from providing abortion care to the people who were waiting. And of course, we weren’t breaking any laws; we were responding to our community and trying to care for the people that deserved access to safe abortion yesterday. They are the same people that deserve that access today, just like they did yesterday.

In the end, we were able to see all the patients on our schedule, and those folks got the care they needed. I want to make it clear that Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance clinics are still providing care, but we are now adhering to the new restrictive law. Even as we are fully compliant with SB 8, we are still unwavering in our belief that all Texans deserve abortion care in their own communities.

We love our patients; we love our partners, and our supporters. Our work is not over. We will continue fighting and doing everything we can for Texans’ rights to safe abortion and compassionate care, but this cannot only be up to abortion care clinics to fix. This is a much larger problem. This law opens a bounty system, a vigilante kind of scenario, that can call into question anyone who supports access to abortion. Providers, friends, family, counselors, ministers – we are all at risk.

Every one of us knows somebody or loves somebody who has had an abortion in their lifetime. We all know someone who might need an abortion at some point. I ask you, is this is this the kind of environment we want somebody we love to go through to access safe abortion care?

The fact is, most Texans did not want this bill. Texans believe in community, friendship, empathy, and above all freedom. This ban does not represent the values or beliefs of the majority of Texans. I don’t want to hear people say things like “Texas should secede” or “over there in Texas everything is extreme.” Texas is full of people just like people all over this country. Parents who are trying to make difficult decisions for their families in the context of this pandemic, people who are juggling work and school and many concerns; and they should have access to safe abortion as they make these decisions for their family. This ban prevents doctors from using their best medical judgment when it comes to caring for patients and instead it turns Texan’s care over to these self-appointed vigilantes and whoever might hold the power at any moment. Anti-abortion politicians can no longer hide behind a guise of health or safety – this is an all-out abortion ban plain and simple. It is cruel, it is extreme, and it’s happening on our watch.

SB 8 robs people of their ability to make decisions about their health and their future. We have been here before. In 2013, HB 2 closed clinics and, in April 2020, Governor Abbott’s Executive Order closed clinics. Both times we fought, and we won, and we were able to reopen and serve the people of Texas. Of course, at this moment we are now in an unprecedented and complicated situation, filled with uncertainties. But we are sure of this: our values, our commitment, and what we stand for has not changed. Whole Woman’s Health believes that abortion is a moral and social good. We know that access to abortion makes communities safer and healthier. And we know Texans deserve better than this.