Shuttered Texas abortion clinic opens New Mexico location — and spreads the word in Austin
Beginning Thursday, people in the Austin and Fort Worth areas will see ads bearing this message on social media: “Think access to safe legal abortion is a thing of the past? Think again.”
Whole Woman's Health — a chain of clinics that offer gynecologic health care, including abortions — is targeting these short, splashy videos in Texas cities where it had to close.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, the founder of Whole Woman’s Health, said she wants these communities to know abortions are legal and available at the new clinic in Albuquerque, N.M.
“We want to be really bold and really clear that Texans can still have abortions where abortion is legal," she told KUT. "You can’t discriminate against somebody because they’re from Texas."
Whole Woman’s Health shuttered its four Texas clinics last June after Roe v. Wade was overturned and abortion was effectively banned in the state. Demand for abortions persisted, however. Miller said Texans continued to call the clinics, looking for information.
Over the past nine months, Whole Woman’s Health has helped people in states where abortion is illegal find appointments in other states, also helping with the cost of procedures and travel when needed. Miller recalled one instance in which a minor and her family drove from McAllen to the Whole Woman’s Health clinic in Alexandria, Va. — a 26-hour trip.
“She got the abortion, and they got in their car and started to drive right back immediately overnight, because her folks ... couldn’t get time off work and child care,” she said.
Situations like this one informed the choice of location for the newest Whole Woman’s Health clinic. New Mexico is the state nearest to Texas that allows the procedure, although the clinic is still more than 700 miles from Austin. Both medication and surgical abortions are legal up to the 24th week of pregnancy. Albuquerque is a large city, which makes it easier for out-of-state clients to blend in and avoid fear of surveillance, according to Miller. It is also home to New Mexico’s largest airport.
Early data suggest Texans will indeed make up a significant portion of the Albuquerque clinic’s clientele. The clinic opened March 23. During its opening weekend, it had 23 appointments scheduled, 21 of which were for Texans, Miller said. The others were from Louisiana, which has also restricted abortion.
Miller has observed that many people in states like Texas remain unsure of their rights, however, and are nervous about the legal repercussions of making an appointment in another state. A flurry of abortion-restrictive bills from Texas and other states have contributed to this confusion; for instance, a recent Idaho bill would impose prison time on anyone who assists a minor in crossing state lines to receive an abortion without parental consent.
Even professional abortion advocates have encountered legal murkiness over the past nine months. Certain Texas-based nonprofits paused their work funding abortion procedures last summer as they awaited clarity on the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe. Some of these groups, such as the Lilith Fund and Texas Choice, have announced they will resume funding for abortions, following a preliminary injunction from a U.S. district judge. The decision blocks prosecutors in several Texas counties from bringing charges against anyone who helps someone get an out-of-state abortion.
According to Miller, many Texans need help with cost and logistics to travel to another state for an abortion.
“Oftentimes, these are folks who’ve never left the state of Texas," she said. "They’ve never left their community. They’ve never flown on a plane or driven that far."