At the end of last week, a federal appeals court upheld Texas’ stringent new abortion law — a policy enacted over the summer that has already left a 400 mile swath of the state without any clinics whatsoever, eliminating access to reproductive health care for many of the most vulnerable Texans. Reproductive rights groups called that decision “devastating.” But now, they’re continuing to fight back.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, one of the groups that filed the first unsuccessful lawsuit, plans to mount a new legal challenge against Texas’ sweeping law, which was enacted over the summer despite weeks of protest.
“We filed this lawsuit to stop the second-largest state in the nation from plunging millions of women back into the darkness and grave danger of illegal abortion that Roe v. Wade was supposed to end,” the group’s president, Nancy Northrup, announced in a statement that was released on Wednesday. “If these legislative attacks on women’s health care continue to take effect, fewer than 10 clinics will be available to provide abortion care to Texas’ 13 million women. Many women will suddenly face a round trip as far as 1,000 miles from their homes to obtain abortion care in their own state.”
The new federal lawsuit will seek an immediate injunction against the provision of the law that requires abortion clinics to get admitting privileges from local hospitals — an unnecessary provision that’s forcing dozens of clinics out of business — as it applies to two clinics. The Center argues that those clinics, Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen and Reproductive Health Services in El Paso, must be allowed to remain open because they’re among the last facilities offering legal abortion care in their respective communities.
“It’s sad that we have to turn to the courts to fight this battle, but Whole Woman’s Health will do what it takes to do right by the women who need us across this state,” Amy Hagstrom Miller, the CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, explained. “We have heard from so many people since we closed our doors in the Rio Grande Valley and in East Texas earlier this month. People are counting on Whole Woman’s Health to fight back for them and their families.”
The second portion of the Center for Reproductive Rights’ suit seeks to strike down a different provision of the law that requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, which would force the facilities in Texas to undergo costly and extensive renovations that most cannot afford. This aspect of the law is set to take effect in the fall — and will leave less than ten clinics in the entire Lone Star State, which is home to an estimated 13 million women.
Texas women have been fighting for their rights on the ground, too. A grassroots effort spearheaded by both the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights is mobilizing women across the state to demand change. Texans are holding letter writing campaigns, meeting with congressional representatives, lobbying on the Hill, and even traveling to testify in front of the United Nations to demand better access to health care services.
“We’re encouraged by all of the media attention we’ve gotten lately, and we know that things are going to change in Texas. They just can’t stay where they are now!” Jessica González-Rojas, the executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, told ThinkProgress in an interview last month. “Women are rising up and fighting back. They see the seeds of change that are being sown, and they’re excited about what could happen.”