Texas

Fort Worth abortion clinic hopes to reopen

The Whole Woman’s Clinic is back in business, courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Officials, who had been scaling staff down and preparing to close the facility’s doors for good, learned Tuesday that the clinic on the far west side of Fort Worth can again offer abortions, birth control, walk-in emergency contraception and more.

“This last year has been filled with heartbreak and injustice … having to say no to women … and laying off workers,” Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and president of Whole Women’s Health, said Wednesday. “The Supreme Court of the United States … ruled on the side of Texas women.

“For the first time in a long time, Texas women got justice.”

Miller said the staff at the facility had been reduced to a skeleton crew of two who have focused on postoperative care and final checkups as they began to pack up equipment after a lower court ruling this month.

“Reopening the clinics is not as simple as it might seem,” Miller said. “We have laid a lot of staffers off [and] … it’s difficult to rehire people, open the doors and just start back up again.”

Varying court rulings in recent months have dictated that the bulk of Texas abortion clinics stay open, then close, and now are back to staying open.

At issue is a provision of the state’s comprehensive abortion law, known as House Bill 2, that requires abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers.

This week, the Supreme Court overturned a portion of the law that closed all but eight of the abortion facilities in Texas. Justices also overturned a piece of the law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital for clinics in El Paso and McAllen.

As a result of this ruling, more than a dozen Texas clinics likely will reopen, officials with the Center for Reproductive Rights have said.

“It’s like playing pingpong,” said Kyleen Wright of Mansfield, president of the Texans for Life Coalition, who helped push for comprehensive abortion restriction legislation. “It keeps going back and forth. We knew this would be a fierce battle. Now it’s a waiting game … and we remain cautiously optimistic.”

Earlier this month, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans allowed the comprehensive abortion law to fully take effect in Texas.

That halted procedures not only at the Fort Worth clinic but also at more than a dozen facilities statewide that didn’t meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers.

At the Fort Worth clinic, abortions aren’t performed every week, but when they are, the clinic can typically handle 70 to 100 women over three days when its is open on a weekend, Miller has said.

The physician on staff at the clinic isn’t local but is flown in from out of state periodically to perform procedures as needed, said Miller, who declined to identify the doctor’s home state.

But she said she and other officials now “are taking a look at Fort Worth and trying to figure out how we might be able to reopen.”

Miller also said the company’s McAllen clinic has been reopened and officials are reviewing what it would take to reopen the Austin clinic as well.

Despite the latest ruling, a note remains on the Fort Worth clinic’s website: “Because of unnecessary restrictions passed by the Texas legislature, we are unfortunately unable to see patients at our Fort Worth location. Please give us a call at Whole Woman’s Health of San Antonio at (210) 281-4251.”

Another local clinic has not been affected by the back-and-forth court rulings.

Remaining open, no matter which way the court ruling ultimately goes, is the 1-year-old Planned Parenthood Southwest Fort Worth Health Center, a $6.5 million licensed ambulatory surgical center that was privately funded by North Texas contributors.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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