The largest abortion provider in Texas is moving to New Mexico as Mississippi’s lone clinic prepares to close

Whole Women’s Health launches a GoFundMe for moving costs as clinics shutter across US in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down abortion rights

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 06 July 2022 18:11 BST
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The largest independent abortion provider in Texas will close its four clinics in the state and move to New Mexico in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s decision to strike down constitutional protections for abortion care.

Texas is among more than a dozen states that have outlawed abortion in nearly all instances following the court’s ruling to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion affirmed by the 1973 decision in Roe v Wade and 1992’s Planned Parenthood v Casey, which the court’s conservative majority overturned in a landmark decision on 24 June.

Mississippi’s sole remaining abortion clinic – which was at the centre of the Supreme Court case – is also preparing to close its doors.

The clinic run by Jackson Women’s Health Organization, known as the “Pink House”, will close on 7 July following a state court decision to deny a request to temporarily freeze a so-called “trigger” law that outlaws nearly all abortions in the state.

Whole Women’s Health in Texas has launched a GoFundMe to help with its moving costs to open its location in New Mexico, where providers are likely to see an influx of patients traveling from states across the South and Midwest that have ended legal abortion care.

“We know that this ban will not stop the need for abortion care, and our patients need a Whole Women’s Health to go to now that Texas has cruelly taken away this basic healthcare need,” the organisation said in a statement. “Abortion access in the South will only get worse as the damage done by this awful ruling continues to compound, and more conservative states pass abortion bans. We are stepping up to ensure everyone has a trusted independent abortion provider as nearby as legally possible.”

Whole Women’s Health led a series of legal challenges against abortion restrictions in Texas in 2013, making their way to the US Supreme Court in 2013. A landmark decision in that case struck down Texas law and affirmed that the state cannot restrict access to abortion care that creates an “undue burden” for patients.

Less than 10 years later, the court’s new conservative majority ended constitutional protections for abortion care entirely.

The latest closures follow a wave of newly enacted anti-abortion laws and severe restrictions on care that have jeopardised operations at clinics across the US. More than 49 clinics have been forced to close following the Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, according to anti-abortion group Operation Rescue.

Abortions are outlawed in nearly all instances in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Dakota and West Virginia. Anti-abortion laws are temporarily frozen in Kentucky, Louisiana and Utah as their legal challenges play out in state courts, and “trigger” laws will soon be effective in Idaho, North Dakota and Wyoming.

Abortions at six weeks of pregnancy, before many people know they are pregnant, or roughly two weeks after a missed period, are outlawed in Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Whole Women’s Health in Texas stopped providing abortions following a state Supreme Court ruling on 1 July that said the state can enforce a nearly century-old anti-abortion law from 1925 – pre-dating the Roe decision but that remained on the books.

That decision came just days after a district judge in Houston temporarily blocked the law. The state also has a web of other anti-abortion laws, including a “trigger” ban that was preemptively designed to take effect without Roe.

Abortion providers could be exposed to lawsuits and financial penalties under its anti-abortion laws, which are civilly enforced.

“These laws are confusing, unnecessary and cruel,” according to a statement from Marc Hearron, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Texas’s trigger ban is not scheduled to take effect for another two months, if not longer. This law from nearly one hundred years ago is banning essential health care prematurely, despite clearly being long repealed.”

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, said clinic staff “embarked on the heartbreaking conversations with patients whose appointments must be canceled, and our clinics have started the wind down process” after the state Supreme Court decision.

“I ache for us and for the people we have dedicated our lives to serve with the fabulous abortion care we provide, many who will be denied that right in the months and possibly years to come,” she said in a statement.

A security guard sits outside the Jackson Women’s Health Organization clinic in Mississippi on 30 June (AP)

That whiplash, in which clinics are forced to turn away patients or reschedule them as court decisions are handed down, is playing out in legal challenges in several states.

On 27 June, a state judge in Louisiana issued a temporary restraining order that blocks the state from enforcing its abortion ban, which includes a law that effectively bans abortions beyond the moment of “fertilization and implantation.” It makes no exception for rape or incest.

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit have argued that the state’s multiple anti-abortion laws are unconstitutionally vague, make it unclear which ones are in effect and what exceptions are granted, while state and local officials issued several conflicting statements about which laws were effective on the day Dobbs was decided.

A hearing in that challenge has been set for 8 July.

The pause granted patients in the state short-term relief at three over-burdened clinics in the state. Without access to legal care in the state, Louisiana patients will have to travel farther than patients in any other state for an abortion.

In neighbouring Mississippi, Pink House attorney Rob McDuff with the George Riley Impact Litigation Initiative at the Mississippi Center for Justice said the clinic is considering its remaining options before it will be forced to close on 7 July.

Hillary Schneller, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represented the Jackson clinic at the Supreme Court, said in a statement that “people in Mississippi who need abortions right now are in a state of panic, trying to get into the clinic before it’s too late. No one should be forced to live in fear like that.”

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