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?
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 RGV 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.?