The Whole Woman’s Health abortion clinic in North Austin – shuttered in the wake of anti-choice House Bill 2 – will reopen in April, clinic leaders announced today.
It marks the first abortion clinic to reopen since the U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled parts of HB 2 unconstitutional some nine months ago. The historic case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, bears the name of the clinic; the independent provider led the fight against the draconian rules meant to shut clinics down.
After more than a decade of operations, the flagship Austin clinic (located at the intersection of I-35 and U.S. 183) closed its doors in July 2014, largely due to the ambulatory surgical center provision – which would have cost the WWH more than $1 million in medically unnecessary renovations. In addition to abortion care, the clinic offered comprehensive women’s health services, including annual exams, pap smears, birth control, emergency contraception, and counseling for 60,000 women. A spokesperson for the reopened clinic tells the Chronicle WWH plans to offer these same services moving forward.
“When we had to make the devastating decision to close in Austin in 2013, after all of the political attacks from HB 2, I made the commitment that as soon as I could reopen in Austin, I would do just that,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health. “Whole Woman’s Health got our start here, and today I am thrilled to announce that we will take the first step, with our flagship clinic reopening, to restore the fabric of care across our state that Texans have come to count on from Whole Woman’s Health.”
Located in Council Member Greg Casar’s District 4, the flagship clinic’s closure led to a strain in resources for his constituents. “When the politically motivated Legislature forced the Whole Woman’s Health in District 4 to close, our community suffered a loss,” he said. ”With the reopening of the Austin Whole Woman’s Health clinic, the residents of North Austin and beyond will have expanded access to safe, legal abortion care right here in our community.”
After lying vacant for six months, clinic leaders – warding off desires from the anti-choice camp to turn the space into a crisis pregnancy center – transformed the building into Choice Works, a co-working space for progressive groups, and housed Shift, a nonprofit geared toward eradicating the cultural stigma surrounding abortion. Whole Woman’s say they will continue to offer a safe space to allies in some capacity.
The opening adds a third clinic option for abortion-seeking patients within the Austin area. “With an additional clinic open in the Austin area, we're looking forward to continuing Lilith Fund's work in partnership with Whole Woman's Health to make abortion access a reality for our clients in Austin,” said Amanda Williams of abortion funding support nonprofit, the Lilith Fund.
Whole Woman’s tells the Chronicle an exact opening date in April has not yet been set. The clinic is in the process of hiring and training new staff and re-transforming the building into a medical clinic – a long and involved process. (Whole Woman’s Beaumont location shuttered indefinitely due to HB 2. Its McAllen site closed then reopened amid the anti-choice package law.) Even when the doors open again to Austin patients, the Texas landscape will still only be home to 19 abortion facilities – half the number that existed before HB 2, the reproductive health clinic notes.
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