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.