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The Worst Phone Call of My Career: I’m Sorry Clinics, You Have to Close

Brigitte Amiri,
Deputy Director,
ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project
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October 3, 2014

I had to make a phone call today that I have been dreading my entire career. I had to call amazing abortion clinics to tell them that they must to close their doors after serving Texas women for more than 30 years.

An appeals court just allowed a Texas law to take effect that requires abortion clinics to make medically unnecessary and prohibitively costly renovations. As a result, only eight abortion clinics will remain in the state of Texas, home to more than 5.5 million women of childbearing age. Eight clinics, that’s right, for a population of women greater than the entire population of Colorado or Minnesota.

All other clinics have been forced to immediately shut down, including two of our clients, Routh Street Women’s Clinic in Dallas and Houston Women’s Clinic. These two institutions have valiantly provided the exceptional care to Texas women in the face of never-ending obstacles.

After the first part of Texas’s notorious House Bill 2 took effect after an intense court battle, these clinics managed to stay open when others were forced to close.

In order to see the increasing number of women who called them seeking medical care as other clinics closed, they opened early, stayed late, and did everything they could to care for women who had nowhere else to go. For example, one of the clinic’s owners postponed a vacation to open the office on a Sunday – and called in all the staff on their day off – so they could treat a single woman who had travelled from a far-flung part of the state.

It’s a tragedy for the women of Texas that such dedicated providers have to close their doors.

The clinics and their staff, who have become like family to each other, are truly inspiring. Few people in this country would risk so much personally, enduring routine threats of violence and extreme protests day after day to help other people. How many of us would sign up for a job knowing that we would face constant hostility, and then stay at that job for more than three decades?

These providers have endured this for one reason: their deep dedication to helping women. They understand how important abortion access is to women and their families. We live in a crazy, mixed up world where dedicated providers like these are forced to close their doors.

And for what? I’ll tell you what. Because politicians think they know better than major medical organizations, like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who oppose such ridiculous requirements because they do not make patients safer.

Abortion is already extremely safe. 99 percent safe, according to the Centers for Disease Control. No other type of clinic is required by law to meet these hospital-like requirements, which have little to do with patient safety and dictate the smallest detail, such as the size of the storage room and janitor closets.

Making that call today broke my heart. But as upset as I am, I know that those dedicated abortion providers are hurting even more.

This is their passion, their family, their life’s work. They are devastated and enraged that they are forced to stop helping women. I salute them for providing compassionate care to women for decades. They are unsung heroes, who I am honored to have had the chance to work with them. And I can only hope that justice will prevail eventually and that they will be able to go back to providing high quality care that women need and deserve.

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