This summer, it will be a year since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a strict abortion law in Texas. Half of the state’s abortion providers closed after the 2013 law, known as House Bill 2, went into effect.
Now, some clinics have recently begun the work of reopening. One of the many clinics that closed was Whole Woman’s Health in Austin, just north of 183 along I-35. It was the chain’s flagship clinic.
“Closing the Austin clinic back in 2014 was one of the hardest things we had to do," says Andrea Ferrigno, Whole Woman’s Health corporate vice president. "I mean, we had been offering wonderful, compassionate patient-centered abortion care for so long in this community that it was really devastating to have to close due to all of these regulations."
She says the hope was always to someday reopen, but it will be a tough road ahead.
“When we had to close we had to lay off our staff – a lot of our physicians went into retirement, moved out of state,” Ferrigno says. “We had to sell equipment, terminate leases, surrender the license. So all of this that we had built for the last 10 years, 12 years, we now have to rebuild. So, it’s about recruiting new staff, finding new doctors, getting new equipment, finding the space, going through the licensing process.”
Ferrigno says the good news is the clinic was able to get back its original building, which is not always the case when a clinic closes.
Daniel Grossman, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and investigator with the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, says finding a place to lease is always an issue.
“This came up [with] the requirement that the facilities meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers," says Grossman, who has researched the effects of Texas House Bill 2 on abortion access. "Clinics were trying to look for existing ambulatory surgical centers to either lease space from, or potentially to buy, and it was very hard to find a space that was available for them as abortion providers."
Rural parts of the state were most affected by all this, Grossman says, and those areas will likely have a harder time reopening clinics. He says it takes a lot of resources to reopen a clinic.
There’s evidence big cities faced issues when clinics closed, too, he says. Wait times, in particular, got out of control, he says.
“Particularly in Austin, it can be very variable,” Grossman says. “So, if one provider goes on vacation, for example, the wait times go quite high at the other facility. So, I definitely think there is room for another provider in Austin, and it just opens up other options.”
Planned Parenthood in Waco also announced it is getting to work reopening a clinic on Ross Avenue. In a statement, the group said it has obtained an abortion license with the state. It's now getting to work hiring staff, ordering medical equipment, updating the health center, as well as making other steps before it can start providing services to patients.