Another independent Texas abortion facility has closed its doors just days before its owner returns to court to challenge part of HB 2, the omnibus anti-abortion law that has shuttered more than half of the state’s legal abortion facilities since it went into effect last November.
“The closure today of Whole Woman’s Health of Austin is the result of politicians acting against the women in our state when they passed HB 2,” said Whole Woman’s Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller in a press release on Thursday. The Austin facility was the Whole Woman’s “flagship” location, featuring warm lighting, purple tones, and inspirational quotes from women such as Aretha Franklin and Audre Lorde.
Hagstrom Miller once oversaw the provision of legal abortion care at five locations across Texas, but over the past several months, she has closed her clinics in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and Beaumont, in East Texas. Today, only Hagstrom Miller’s clinics in Fort Worth and San Antonio—where Whole Woman’s operates a hospital-like ambulatory surgical center (ASC) facility—remain open.
However, the Whole Woman’s Fort Worth clinic, and all other Texas abortion providers that do not meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers, will close come September 1 without a court ruling blocking the implementation of HB 2. A federal judge in Austin is scheduled to hear the latest challenge to the law—brought, in part, by Whole Woman’s Health—this Monday, August 4.
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The ambulatory surgical center requirement could be the last of four provisions of HB 2 to go into effect. The law currently bans abortion after 20 weeks, severely restricts the prescription of medication abortion to the extent that it requires Texans to visit a doctor four separate times, and mandates that doctors who provide legal abortion care have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of where they perform procedures.
If Whole Woman’s Health and its fellow plaintiffs are unable to secure an injunction against the law in federal court, the availability of legal abortion care will potentially be reduced to just five Texas cities: Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. Five of the eight remaining providers are expected to be Planned Parenthood facilities, with the vast majority of independent abortion providers closing their doors in the wake of HB 2. Planned Parenthood has announced plans to open two new ASC facilities, in San Antonio and Dallas, before the September 1 deadline.
“While Austin has stopped providing abortion care, our Fort Worth clinic remains open and we hold out hope that this trial will allow us to remain open and continue serving that community and possibly even reopen some of the Whole Woman’s Health clinics that HB 2 forced us to close,” said Hagstrom Miller.
As of July 31, 19 Texas abortion facilities remain open, down from 41 in the spring of 2013, before conservative lawmakers proposed HB 2 in a special legislative session last summer.