To most people, the RG​V is a symbol of the tragedy of this law. To me, it’s home.

This is a guest post from Melissa Aronja.  

The day Whole Woman’s Health closed in McAllen, Texas was a sobering experience.

It was March 2014, and no one at the time knew if the Rio Grande Valley would ever have an abortion clinic again. At the closing vigil held outside the clinic, each person in attendance read some of the personal experiences of Whole Woman’s Health patients. They were stories written by immigrants, students, people going through divorce and people who had experienced sexual assault. Local anti-choicers were gathered across the street and cheered in celebration.

The months that followed — the months in which some of the poorest counties in the United States were left without abortion access — were surreal and directly affected people I know.

I was in Austin in 2013 when the Texas Legislature voted to move forward with HB 2, and I’ve seen the effects of the terrible legislation first-hand. Being in D.C. during the oral arguments for Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is important to me. The constant attacks on Whole Woman’s Health are personal. The loss of abortion access during those awful six months in 2014 is personal. Will you chip in and help me carry my voice all the way to the Supreme Court?MelissaAronja

Six months after it initially closed, Whole Woman’s Health was allowed to reopen. On that day, I awoke to texts from friends who were helping the clinic finish setting up. Anti-choice protesters were not happy about the clinic’s reopening; volunteers were needed immediately to help get patients safely inside the building, so I rushed to the clinic. Over the next couple of weeks, our little group hit the ground running, figuring out the logistics of clinic escorting amidst a crowd of very aggressive protestors from the local crisis pregnancy center. Not only were they upset that Whole Woman’s Health had reopened, they were positively furious that clinic escorts were now present on “their” turf.

Then, the clinic was temporarily forced to close again. That weekend, I organized a last-minute demonstration outside our closed clinic. We’d had enough. Only about twelve people showed up, but pictures from that demonstration have since made their way into publications all around the world. South Texans for Reproductive Justice was born.

Looking back on our first demonstration as South Texans for Reproductive Justice, I’m incredibly proud of how far our grassroots movement has come in the wake of HB 2. At the end of January 2016, the annual Roe v. Wade anti-choice parade made its way to Whole Woman’s Health. Hundreds of anti-choicers were met by hundreds of pro-choice supporters. We had enough people to line both sides of the street, preventing the parade from surrounding the clinic during operating hours as they had done in the past.

Before HB 2, the Rio Grande Valley didn’t even register on most people’s radars. Now, it’s part of one of the biggest abortion rights cases in history. To most people, the RG​V is a symbol of the tragedy of this law. To me, it’s home. This court case has the power to permanently impact my friends and family, and I can’t let this happen without a fight. Can you pitch in to help me take my fight against HB 2 to Washington, D.C.?

House Bill 2 is officially heading to the Supreme Court. What’s next?

The Supreme Court of the United States officially signaled Friday that they would hear Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, the case against Texas’ most damaging anti-choice law, House Bill 2. It’s been 20 years since the Court has heard a case concerning access to abortion, the last time being Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.

Planned Parenthood v. Casey set the legal standard of an “undue burden” –meaning that those who take anti-choice laws to court have to prove that the law creates a “substantial obstacle” to abortion access. In Texas, House Bill 2 has closed swaths of clinics, especially those in West Texas. The Rio Grande Valley in particular would have no abortion provider had the Supreme Court not placed a stay on the law – otherwise, patients would have to make the 200+ mile drive to San Antonio to get the care that they need.

The other component of the case, according to SCOTUSblog, is “whether the Fifth Circuit erred in concluding that this standard permits Texas to enforce, in nearly all circumstances, laws that would cause a significant reduction in the availability of abortion services while failing to advance the State’s interest in promoting health – or any other valid interest.”

The timeline of abortion access in Texas since 2013.

The timeline of abortion access in Texas since 2013.

Since Senator Wendy Davis’ historic filibuster of House Bill 2 in 2013, Texas abortion providers have opened and closed their doors as the law has bounced around the court system, having successful rulings by a federal judge in Austin only to be struck down by the more-conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Now that the court has taken up Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, the nine justices will hear the case sometime during Spring 2016. Like many of the current Court’s rulings on contentious issues, they will likely be split in their ruling, with Justice Anthony Kennedy serving as the swing vote. Similar to their order to put a stay on House Bill 2, Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Scalia, Justice Alito and Justice Thomas will likely dissent, while Justice Ginsberg, Justice Breyer, Justice Sotomayor and Justice Kagan will probably vote to strike down House Bill 2. Justice Kennedy will likely hold a lot of power, and Texans’ access to abortion care, in his hands.

BREAKING: SCOTUS temporarily blocks HB 2

SCOTUS block

In a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court has granted a temporary stay of House Bill 2 while the 9 justices decide whether to hear Whole Woman’s Health v. Lakey, the case that’s been making its way through federal courts since August 2014 (read the order here). Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Scalia, Justice Alito and Justice Thomas voted against the order.

Had the Court not stepped in, the law would have gone into effect on Wednesday, July 1, shuttering all but a handful of clinics throughout the entire state and leaving a vast majority of Texas without a provider of safe, legal abortion care in many communities that need them.

This is the second time the Supreme Court has granted an emergency request to stay HB 2, the first being in October 2014 before going back for another hearing in front of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in January of this year.

Read our statement below:

Supreme Court Order Delays Anti-Abortion Texas Law From Going Into Effect

BREAKING: 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds Most of HB2

Update: On a press call, Whole Woman’s Health Founder and CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller has vowed to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Clinics have 22 days to comply with the court’s ruling.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the majority of the most harmful provisions of House Bill 2 can remain in effect, shuttering all but 8 clinics in the entire state. With the exception of Whole Woman’s Health of McAllen, all clinics in Texas are required to comply with the costly building standards of ambulatory surgical centers and must have physicians on site that maintain hospital admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. Read our press release below and the court ruling here.

Appellate Court Ruling Causes Widespread Abortion Clinic Closures in Texas

How do you celebrate Roe v. Wade when Texans are losing access to abortion?

On the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Texans’ access to safe, legal and timely abortion is at a low point. Restricted access means only one thing: Texans’ health and safety are at risk.

Roe v. Wade, a case out of Texas, legalized abortion across the United States. At the time the Supreme Court decided Roe, abortion was banned in almost every state with few exceptions. Roe made these bans unconstitutional, resulting in increased access to safe, legal abortion nationwide.

As a young woman working in the reproductive rights movement, I am often told that I do not know what it was like before Roe, when abortion was illegal. While it is true that I—as a woman who grew up in a middle-class family in an urban area—have never had to worry about access to abortion, many Texans are now living in pre-Roe conditions where safe, legal abortion is not an option.

In the decades since Roe, the Texas Legislature has fought to restrict abortion so that it is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. As you read this, the future of abortion access in Texas hinges on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision on whether or not to uphold the ambulatory surgical center provision of HB 2, the anti-abortion bill passed during 2013’s second special session. This provision does nothing to benefit patients, but forces abortion clinics to meet costly building requirements like having locker rooms, showers and extra-wide hallways. If HB 2 is upheld, there will be less than 10 abortion clinics in Texas, in only five major cities and about 750,000 women of reproductive age will live more than 200 miles from a Texas abortion clinic, according to the Texas Policy Evaluation Project.

It is unconscionable that hundreds of thousands of Texans would have to travel over 200 miles to access vital reproductive health care.

Anti-abortion lawmakers and activists have recently started claiming that restrictions make the procedure safer. With less than a one percent major complication rate, abortion is already one of the safest medical procedures—according to the Guttmacher Institute—and does not need to be further regulated. In fact, abortion clinic regulations compromise Texans’ health and safety by making a legal health care procedure harder to get.

After years of attacks on abortion access by anti-abortion legislators and former Gov. Rick Perry, accessing abortion takes time and resources many people do not have. There is not only the cost of the procedure, but also the cost of travelling to the clinic multiple times. State law mandates a 24-hour wait between the required sonogram and the abortion, which for the patient means additional time off work, wages lost and arranging childcare and transportation. As a result, many Texans are pushed further along in their pregnancies before they can access a clinic.

By piling unnecessary restrictions on abortion, anti-abortion lawmakers have been able to limit access to the procedure without overturning Roe.

On the 42nd anniversary of Roe, we should acknowledge the importance of the decision, but also recognize that many Texans still lack access to abortion. Honor Roe by fighting back against anti-abortion legislation and advocating for proactive policies. The 84th Legislative Session is already underway; be prepared to come to the Texas Capitol and speak out against anti-abortion bills and in support of legislation that expands Texans’ access to reproductive health care so that on the 43rd anniversary of Roe we have more to celebrate.