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As Supreme Court Decision on HB2 Nears, Abortion Rights Activists Feel Familiar Anxiety

Planned Parenthood clinical assistant Nicki Bailey discusses the new abortion laws with a patient in Austin.
Eric Schlegel for the Texas Tribune
Planned Parenthood clinical assistant Nicki Bailey discusses the new abortion laws with a patient in Austin.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling on Texas’s controversial abortion bill in the coming weeks. Abortion providers and activists in Texas are waiting to hear what the court decides. In the meantime, they are also preparing for a possible loss and clinic closures that would follow.

Because the court has only eight justices right now, there are three possible outcomes in the case against the Texas abortion law, known as House Bill 2.

Two of those outcomes – including a tie vote – mean the law would be upheld. And, for people who do the work of either providing or securing access to legal abortions here in Texas, that possibility is pretty stressful.

“You know, each time I kind of write my draft for a response to a negative decision – a decision that would basically uphold HB2 – my heart just sinks,” says Amanda Williams with the Lilith Fund, which helps low income women pay for an abortion. “You know, and this is extremely nerve wracking.”

Sarah Wheat works with Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, which operates a clinic here in Austin. She says, for her, that anxiety is also a daily occurrence.

If HB2 stands, that Planned Parenthood clinic would be one of nine in the state that advocates say will stay open, while others will be forced to close. And this scenario – clinics closing overnight – is not unfamiliar to Williams or Wheat. In fact, Wheat says this reminds her of more than a year ago when the law was fully in effect and the U.S. Supreme Court hadn’t announced it would hear the case, yet.

“You know that was incredibly distressing and stressful because we did see so many clinics in the state have to basically close or stop providing services and we saw what an impact that had and just how many women were having to call our clinic just, you know, frantic,” Wheat says.

Williams says she remembers when the law was first enacted and there was a lot of fear and confusion. She and others had to figure out logistics – which clinics were still open and how to get women there – on a moment’s notice. Williams says that’s what she’s thinking about as she waits for the ruling.

“We don’t want to live that again. That sort of frantic period was so overwhelming,” Williams says. “But I think what we are doing is preparing for the worst. We know that we’ve been through this before. We can do this.”

The Supreme Court is releasing opinions over the next couple of weeks. Justices will be weighing in specifically on two provisions of HB2 – one requiring clinics to meet the standards of an ambulatory surgical center and that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Ashley Lopez covers politics and health care. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.
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