Fort Worth abortion clinic among at least nine in Texas to close

Posted Friday, Nov. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The doors at the Whole Woman’s Health clinic were closed Friday.

And that’s the way they likely will stay — indefinitely — at the far west Fort Worth clinic that provides abortion and other services.

“Lets hope and pray this is where it stands,” said Teresa Johnson, a Keller woman who stood outside the clinic, as she does every week, to pray for women and the end of abortion.

The doors to this clinic and at least eight others throughout the state were closed in the wake of a federal appeals court ruling late Thursday that allowed the bulk of the state’s new abortion restrictions to go into effect immediately.

“This is heartbreaking for us on so many levels,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and president of Whole Woman’s Health. “Women who need our care will now have nowhere to turn and the staff and physicians in our clinics now face furlough and likely unemployment.”

Whole Woman’s Health closed the doors Friday not just at the Fort Worth clinic, but also at clinics in McAllen and San Antonio. Workers locally and at the Austin headquarters spent much of Thursday night and Friday morning calling patients and canceling appointments.

“It is a sad and dark day for women in Texas; we have regressed backwards about 30 years,” Miller said. “Of course Whole Woman’s Health will continue to advocate for women and providers throughout Texas and be a leader in the challenge to to this ruling all the way to the Supreme Court.”

Conversely, Kyleen Wright called the latest court ruling a victory for women.

“I’m feeling that women are going to be safer, they are going to have better doctors,” said Wright of Mansfield, president of the Texans for Life Coalition, who helped push for this legislation. “This has been a hard fought battle and we know we aren’t finished yet, but this is an important victory.”

Curtailing services

Planned Parenthood, which makes up approximately 10 of the 39 abortion providers in Texas, will not be closing doors to its clinics, officials said Friday.

Especially not at the new Planned Parenthood Southwest Fort Worth Health Center, a $6.5 million facility privately funded by North Texans.

They are keeping the clinics open because more than 95 percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides focus on services ranging from birth control to cancer screening, said Danielle Wells, assistant director for media relations and communications for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, which covers 77 counties in Texas.

“We are unable to offer abortion services starting (Friday),” she said. “But this fight is not over. We will continue to do everything we can to protect women’s access to safe, legal care.”

She said they are continuing to review their legal options.

“We’ve been in Texas for 75 years and we aren’t going anywhere,” Wells said.

Neither are opponents such as Mary Whitehead, who sat in a lawn chair outside Planned Parenthood’s southwest center Friday, praying for both women and babies.

Thursday’s decision by the court was just common sense, since the legislation protects women’s health and was passed legitimately, Whitehead said.

“That is what we work for — to change this legally and persuade people,” said Whitehead, a member of St. Jude Catholic Church in Mansfield who was participating in 40 Days for Life, a growing effort to stop abortions.

Catholic officials were also cheering the latest ruling.

“This is an epic victory for life,” said Karen Garnett, executive director of the Catholic Pro-Life Committee of North Texas, the Respect Life Ministry of the Diocese of Dallas. “While we knew the abortion industry would fight the implementation of this historic law protecting women and their unborn children, we were most hopeful that the will of Texans would be respected and honored by the courts.”

‘Delayed joy’

The clinics closing statewide are due to a controversial law passed earlier this year by the GOP-led Texas legislature.

Lawmakers worked for months to pass the comprehensive abortion law — which also bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and requires procedures to be performed at ambulatory surgical centers — but were derailed in June when state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, embarked upon a more than 11-hour filibuster that drew her both national fame and notoriety.

Thousands of spectators jammed into the Texas Capitol during the legislative process.

Republicans stopped the filibuster, but ultimately, deafening noise and chaos erupted in the gallery, preventing legislators from knowing whether the measure had passed.

The bill died that night but passed weeks later during another special session.

Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers filed a lawsuit to stop provisions of the measure from going into effect.

For Johnson, who has not been able to have children since she had an abortion about 20 years ago, the law is about women’s health.

“I’m still in delayed joy,” she said. “Really, is this for real?”

Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley

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