Supreme Court's abortion decision is a win for Texas women

Photo by Allison Shelley

Over the past three years, I have been heartbroken to see the ways that House Bill 2, Texas’ clinic shutdown law, has cut women off from care.

This decision doesn't eliminate the burdens women carry in trying to access legal abortion in Texas, but it does considerably lighten the load.

I think about the woman on the phone who begged me to see her, even though the law had already shut down our clinic. I still hear her desperation: "Please, please, I won't tell anyone. Why won't you help me, please?!"

Or the woman who became pregnant while starting her chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer. Her own physician refused to help her end the pregnancy because of fear of retaliation from the anti-choice hospital board members. She came to us the day HB 2 was enacted, and we couldn't see her.

As an abortion provider, as a Latina, as a mother, as an immigrant from Latin America, I'm relieved that these barriers can at last be lifted. I join my colleagues, our patients, and women and families across the country in celebrating the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.

Today, the court struck down two key provisions of HB 2, the medically unnecessary law that put needless hurdles in the path of any woman in Texas who had decided to end her pregnancy. This law shut down providers and forced women across Texas to make multiple and unnecessary visits at far away clinics, take unpaid time off work, find childcare, and arrange and pay for transportation for hundreds of miles.

The court's decision recognizes what clinics and providers have known for years: a woman deserves compassion, respect, and dignity in making decisions about abortion. In its decision, the court has acknowledged that the right to abortion must not and cannot be rendered meaningless by laws designed to close clinics and punish women.

I have done just about every job at Whole Woman's Health, and I can tell you what it means to provide compassionate, quality abortion care. To operate a clinic that values women's voices, experiences, and needs. To listen and sit with patients as they share their stories and their struggles.

Most of the women we see have had to overcome tremendous obstacles. Most are mothers caring for children, many are Latina, black, or immigrant women who already face too many barriers to health care. Whether it's crossing a border checkpoint, fearing the threat of detention and deportation; struggling to save the money to pay not only for the procedure but also for transportation; or dealing with the harassment of protesters outside, they go through so much. I am humbled by their resilience — and deeply frustrated by what they are forced to endure just to get to our doors.

This decision doesn't eliminate the burdens women carry in trying to access legal abortion in Texas, but it does considerably lighten the load.

With this decision, no more clinics will close. Perhaps, with time and perseverance, some clinics may be able to reopen. It will take time to rebuild what we've lost since HB 2 was passed, but we are strong — and we will not give up.

The decision also sets a precedent, sending a powerful message to politicians around the country who have passed or would like to pass similar laws. While clinic shutdown laws (on the books in two dozen states) don't go away immediately, the tide has turned, and we are hopeful that this momentum will carry us on a wave of justice starting in Texas and across the South, which has been hit hardest by these restrictions.

For me, though, this decision is also personal. I have witnessed firsthand the grave importance of having access to safe, legal abortion care in an environment where women's voices matter. That is why I am committed to this work on both a professional and personal level to make sure that everyone who needs this vital care is able to get it.

I am hopeful for our patients, whose futures look a little brighter now that the pain and punishment of HB 2 has ended. I am hopeful for women of color in Texas and across the country, who are harmed most by clinic shutdown laws. And, personally speaking, I'm hopeful for the future my kids will grow up in — that it will be a future where women and families can make decisions and receive health care with the dignity and compassion we deserve.

Andrea Ferrigno

Corporate vice president, Whole Woman’s Health