We Won’t Forget: The End of Safe, Legal Abortion Care in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley [Video]

Two more reproductive health clinics in Texas have closed, as the state comes closer to shuttering all but the six legal abortion providers that can comply with its new omnibus anti-abortion law, HB 2.

The two clinics, in southeast Texas and in the Rio Grande Valley, were both part of the Whole Woman’s Health organization. Now, the thousands of patients they saw each year will be forced either to carry their unplanned pregnancies to term, travel hundreds of miles for legal abortions, or take matters into their own hands.

Senior political reporter Andrea Grimes traveled to McAllen’s Whole Woman’s clinic, one of the last abortion clinics in the Rio Grande Valley, for a candlelight vigil marking the closure of a building where Texans have gone for safe, legal abortion care since Roe v. Wade.


[opening slides with RH Reality Check logo]

[Scenes of South Texans lighting candles]

Title: We Won’t Forget: the End of Safe, Legal Abortion Care in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, produced by Andrea Grimes

Andrea Grimes, senior political reporter for RH Reality Check: March 6, 2014: As the sun sets in McAllen on this clear Thursday evening, South Texans gather for a candlelight vigil to mourn the closure of an abortion facility that has been serving the Rio Grande Valley for forty years.

They are here to bear witness to the stories of the patients served by Whole Woman’s Health, which for the last ten years has provided safe, legal abortion in a building that has been a destination, and a haven, for Texans seeking abortion care since Roe V. Wade.

Woman, holding candle, reading from slip of paper: This is very similar to my actual story. I am 23 years old. I live in McAllen. I’m a single mother, with one child.

Man, holding candle, reading from slip of paper: I am from McAllen. I just turned 18 years old. I am unemployed and a full time college student. I cannot afford to have a child.

Woman, holding candle, reading from slip of paper: I am from McAllen, I’m 24 years old, and I’m confident in my decision, because I know I’m not financially ready for a baby.

Woman, holding candle, reading from slip of paper: I’m from Mercedes, I’m 33 years old, a mother of two, and I’m living with my parents.

Andrea Grimes: Legal abortion in the Rio Grande Valley ended in November 2013, when part of Texas’ omnibus anti-abortion law, HB 2, went into effect.

Amy Hagstrom-Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health: For the women and families of Texas, justice has not been served. HB 2 is an injustice to those in Texas seeking the legal right to end an unwanted pregnancy safely.

For months, Whole Woman’s CEO Amy Hagstrom-Miller, tried to keep her clinic open for ultrasounds and pre-operative appointments while she attempted to secure admitting privileges for her doctor at local hospitals, which is just one of HB 2’s four medically unnecessary new requirements for abortion providers. But after a cold reception from hospitals, and no public support from the doctors who have been referring patients to Whole Woman’s for a decade, she knew couldn’t keep the doors open indefinitely in this deeply conservative community.

Veronica Higareda, student with Texas Freedom Network at UT-Pan American: And especially because of the stigma that’s around reproductive justice and women’s health, it’s really even hard to talk about it.

Paola Alaniz, student with Texas Freedom Network at UT-Pan American: People are scared. People where we socialize tend to to …

Veronica Higareda, student with Texas Freedom Network at UT-Pan American: Be very judgmental about it.

Paola Alaniz, student with Texas Freedom Network at UT-Pan American: Exactly. About sex, about abortions, about contraception. Everything that goes into that. They have a lot of stigma, and it’s very difficult to push away that stigma and realize that you’re confident enough to make the right decision.

Andrea Grimes: This week, Whole Woman’s Health also announced the simultaneous closure of another rural clinic, their Beaumont facility in Southeast Texas – staff there joined their counterparts in the Valley via a livestream for the candlelight vigil. Both clinic closures illustrate what has been so enraging, and so heartbreaking, for reproductive justice advocates here: the most marginalized Texans, the Texans with the fewest resources, are the ones whose health, and lives, are most threatened by family planning budget cuts and medically unnecessary abortion regulations that push abortion into back alleys and across the border.

Paula Saldaña, community health educator: Even way before all this, new policies and the HB 2 and the 2011 family planning cuts, health care–reproductive health care–was not easily accessible for women. Especially in low-income, immigrant women. So if it was affecting them, and now it’s going to affect everyone in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Andrea Grimes: The Whole Woman’s clinic in Beaumont performed about 3,000 abortions per year, while two clinics in the Valley, including Whole Woman’s McAllen, performed about 2,600 per year. Where those patients will go now is unclear – some will carry to term, some will find a way to drive or bus hundreds of miles to major city abortion clinics, and some will try to end their pregnancies on their own.

Sofia Peña, student at UT Pan-American: I think the statistic is, 60 percent of women who seek abortions have children already? And so, I was one of those 60 percent of women. And so the lovely young women that were here today, they helped me through everything that I needed for the procedure, and it was really amazing. And I feel really blessed to have gotten their love before this all happened. And it is truly devastating, that it’s happening now.

Andrea Grimes: Though conservative state legislators–both anti-choice democrats and republicans–seem to believe they can ignore their most vulnerable constituents, these Valley residents have plenty of fight left in them. There is talk of organizing car pools and bus rides from the Valley and Southeast Texas to the major cities that, come September 2014, will house the only six safe, legal abortion facilities in Texas that will be able to comply with the new law. We don’t know yet what will happen to the Texans who can’t make it to one of those six facilities, but tonight in the Rio Grande Valley, a promise has been made to remember them, always.

Group, carrying candles and chanting: “We won’t forget! We won’t forget!”

[Slide: For more coverage on Texas’ reproductive health care crisis, visit RHRealityCheck.org.]

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  • grantal

    You know sitting around signing petitions and complaining on this site and others is not cutting it. This is outrageous in this day and age that we allow a MINORITY group of people to break the constitution that they constantly yell about and which is outdated and should be upgraded to modern times. To control a woman who is a HUMAN being first. They have no right to take away health care from people any people rich or poor. I remind these brainless morons on the right and left, mostly which are men and will never walk in a woman’s shoes that they are the ones constantly screaming about big government in people’s lives. Oh no correct that what they really mean is big government in the corporations lives stealing their precious money that they have become obsessed with May I remind them of the golden gods and the fall of the roman empire? may I also remind them to go read their Bibles Old and New testament and find for me where it says abortion is a sin. I and many others have looked and it is NOT in there anywhere. In fact they thought killing your disobedient children was just fine. May I also remind them that they are violent and have killed innocent doctors and health care workers and destroyed property of others to make a false claim of murder? HA You can spin it anyway you want to morons but the truth be told that God knowing of all tings NEVER associated a fetus with murder in fact God is the biggest abortion doctor there is. prove to me otherwise. It was NEVER written in any parts of the Bible. So I ask you so called pro-life people if you are so dead set on saving every human on the planet where are you? Your not outside of the pentagon threatening them. Your not outside vandalizing the courts that put the death penalty on people, you could not care less about the air and water people are breathing that in many cases are killing us. What about our poisioned food Genetically modified with poisions like agent orange? Where are you pro people people??? I want answers !

    • Alice Mechler

      I totally agree! From Genesis and Exodus, to Ezekiel and Job, a fetus is not a human being until it takes ‘the breath of life’. It isn’t ‘murder’ until that fetus takes a breath. I simply do not understand why people use the Bible as a reference and then misquote it!

  • grantal

    Oh and do not even try to spin the old a fetus is a human crap on me I have known that a fetus with human DNA is just that a fetus with human DNA for years and years. Biology anyone? God would have specifically said in the Bible that a fetus is an actual person because back then we did not have the technology to see inside the womb but God knowing of all things would have known and said so then. So answer me that one? You can’t because you know I am right and you just want to force, control women. The women who agree with you have been severely brainwashed I am certain of it or they have found a way to manipulate you to get what they want and you are not paying attention. Like Phyllis Schaffley for instance. She played the system well but hurt her sisters in the process shame on all of you!

  • Melinda Hampton

    It’s about money. These clinics shut down because people who support them don’t donate enough money. And I’m just as guilty. Unfortunately I’m not financially able and cannot afford to be writing a check right now to show my support. I just wish that some of our more wealthy supporters in Hollywood would help us out a bit more.

    • goatini

      Actually, you are a forced-birther troll, deliberately catapulting several giant lies.

    • Jennifer Starr

      Of course, it might help if the family planning budget had been cut in the state, and if the clinics themselves weren’t burdened by unnecessary regulations and TRAP laws designed to make it virtually impossible for the clinics to stay open. You haven’t addressed any of that.