Commentary Law and Policy

One Year After Supreme Court Decision, Whole Woman’s Health Continues to Center Its Patients

Andrea Ferrigno

I want people to know that despite the constant attacks by our opposition, we are still standing, we are building power, and most importantly, we are providing care.

It’s been a year since our historic victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedtthe most important abortion rights case in a generation. I get goosebumps just thinking about that day, remembering how nervous and anxious I was wondering if the justices would do the right thing.

I was there at the Supreme Court with Whole Woman’s Health’s fiercest leaders and compassionate providers, but we weren’t alone. There was a sea of people dressed in purple (our color) and chanting, dancing, and singing.

What I didn’t know then is that this massive show of support set the tone for what was yet to happen. We were going to win, and we were doing it for every single woman in the nation.

Being part of that fight and that moment will forever be part of me. However, as an immigrant Latina and abortion provider, I feel severely threatened under this current administration—so many of our communities are being attacked. The next few years will be difficult, but I want to offer hope and guidance.

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When I started working in abortion care, it wasn’t politicized like it is today. I fell in love with abortion care by being able to work with each and every person who came into the clinic. By being able to offer space, help, and undivided attention as they share their feelings, conflicts, sorrows, and joy. By letting every patient know that she is making the absolute best decision for her and her family.

Even though abortion care has always been stigmatized, the political interference wasn’t as shamelessly anti-woman and aggressive as it has become over the last 15 years. For example, in the 1990s, the work of the anti-choice community was very much at the clinics, with acts of domestic terrorism. Today, clinics still see violence, but the work has extended beyond sidewalks and into legislatures, and courthouses, so that we feel the attacks on all literal fronts.

Abortion providers now know that when you go into this work, you can’t just focus on health care, you unfortunately have to keep an eye on the politics, because the political attacks are relentless. These attacks constantly interfere with the patient-centered health care our communities deserve and that we’re committed to providing at our clinics. When we experience abortion restrictions, we don’t just experience them alone as providers. We experience them with our patients. Our frustration is their frustration.

As you can imagine, the three-year journey to the Supreme Court was a long and difficult one for both Whole Woman’s Health and our patients. How it felt to fight for three years for abortion access in Texas and how it felt to win—these feelings will forever fuel my passion to continue this work.

We have already seen what the Whole Woman’s Health decision has done for other states. In the past year, our victory has already brought relief to countless states around the country with similar medically unnecessary abortion restrictions. And we were also able to bring our victory back home to Texas and reopen our flagship clinic in Austin, which closed in the summer of 2014.

Our victory last year did so much. I am proud to be part of that work. However, we know that we have to continue to fight, build, and harness power within our communities, and reach out to allies and elected officials.

There’s a saying, “as goes Texas, so goes the nation,” and I want the resilience that independent abortion providers like Whole Woman’s Health show to inspire people and movements in other red states and beyond. When we’re forced down, we fight back and we rebuild. When we’re exhausted, we rest, come together, and then we get back at it again. I want people to know that despite the constant attacks by our opposition, we are still standing, we are building power, and most importantly, we are providing care.

A new president or Congress cannot undo the momentous victory we had last year nor dampen the fighting spirit within us. Let the anniversary of our victory be a reminder of our power and our grit.

I’ve dedicated 18 years of my life to advocating and providing abortion care for women and families, so this victory reassures me that I am on the right path.

The attacks will certainly come our way, but so will the women who need our services. At Whole Woman’s Health, we’ll continue to keep the woman at the center of everything we do through it all. The days of feeling isolated as an abortion provider are far gone as we now stand supported by the highest court in the land, and backed by a bold movement for dignity and justice.

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