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This Lawyer Fought to Keep the Texas Abortion Clinics Open

This Lawyer Fought to Keep the Texas Abortion Clinics Open
This Lawyer Fought to Keep the Texas Abortion Clinics Open
Brigitte Amiri,
Deputy Director,
ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project
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October 3, 2014

“I’m obviously devastated, and I quite honestly feel physically ill.”

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After the Texas legislature passed H.B. 2, a set of anti-abortion regulations so restrictive they were destined to close nearly every clinic in the state, lawyers like Brigitte Amiri, an attorney from the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, entered the arena. Amiri represented Routh Street Women’s Clinic in Dallas and Houston Women’s Clinic in litigation against the first portion of H.B. 2, the medically unnecessary requirement that all doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges to a nearby hospital.

Now, the Fifth Circuit has ruled that the last portion of H.B. 2 – the requirement that all abortion clinics must be built to the same medical standards as an ambulatory surgical center – will go into effect. Only seven or eight clinics are expected to remain open.

Amiri tells why she fought so hard to keep abortion accessible in Texas, and what happens now that the clinics she’s been representing in trial are being told they must shut their doors.

I have been an attorney at the ACLU in the Reproductive Freedom Project for almost a decade. I started my legal career at the Center for Reproductive Rights, so I have been doing reproductive rights litigation for about 13 years. I decided to go into reproductive rights litigation because I wanted to use law as a tool to try to help people and I really felt that the ability of women to decide whether and when to become parents is crucial for women to be equal in society.

I am based in New York, and Texas has been one of my cases. We have been involved in the HB2 litigation, and I was on the trial team for the first challenge to the admitting privileges case. We represent three clinics in Texas, but two of the clinics will be forced to close now that this next provision of HB2, the ambulatory surgical center provision, is allowed to take effect.

I came back from parental leave in July 2013, and these admitting privileges laws had completely taken over the office. We had challenges pending in Texas and Alabama and Wisconsin, so I jumped in where I was needed. Texas is where I was needed.

There is no question that being a parent is one of the hardest things in the world, and everyone should have the ability to make the determination about what is best for themselves and their families in terms of whether to have children. And there is no question that becoming a parent has made me even more committed to doing the work that I do. It is interesting to have had essentially a newborn and be on trial in Texas, fighting for these rights. I was literally pumping breast milk in the courthouse bathroom during trial.

The two clinics that I represent that will be forced to close their doors — they are devastated and outraged. I was hoping I would never have to make a phone call to tell them that the court has ruled and they are being forced to close their doors. Both of these independent clients that I represent have been in operation for more than 30 years. I think they are completely unsung heroes. Nobody really knows about these little clinics, and they have done so much for so many women in Texas. It is absolutely heartbreaking and infuriating that they will have to close their doors because of a politically driven law.

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