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Rio Grande Valley Loses Only Remaining Abortion Clinic

The last remaining abortion clinic in the Rio Grande Valley closed its doors this week as a result of House Bill 2, the abortion clinic restriction law passed by the legislature during 2013’s special session.

Whole Women’s Health is closing it's clinics in McAllen and Beaumont. Amy Hagstrom Miller, who owns Whole Women’s Health, said the provision of the law requiring physicians to obtain hospital admitting privileges was proving to be the most problematic and one of the main reasons they were forced to close the clinics.  

"Either the hospital has denied us even an application for privileges or we were unable to get a physicians in the community to cosign our privileges application," Hagstrom Miller said. "So we haven’t been able to do any abortion care since Nov. 1, so there’s really no hope for us in McAllen and we also know that there’s no way we can afford to build an ambulatory-surgical center."

Hagstrom Miller said she blames the new law, but also blames the local physicians who would not co-sign a request for admitting privileges.

"The physicians in our communities have referred countless people to us," Hagstrom Miller said. "These medical professionals who know us and our work could have helped us to keep our clinics open, yet they remained silent. We ask those doctors who not step up for us, 'Where will you send your patients now?' "

The  McAllen clinic was the last remaining abortion provider for South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley meaning the closest clinic is in Corpus Christi, 150 miles away.

Paula Saldana, with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, calls HB2 a human rights violation, because for many Latina women, clinics like the one in McAllen are their only access to healthcare.

"As a promotera I am there for my friends, my neighbors, my community no matter what, but it breaks my heart that I have nowhere to send women who come to me for help," Saldana said.

Hagstrom Miller said while they await a decision from the US 5th Circuit Court on a case challenging the law, they had to pool resources and prepare for the next stage of abortion restrictions -- ambulatory surgical center standards set to take effect in September.

“In the next six months we’re going to be focusing on Austin and Fort Worth, which are our two remaining clinics that are not ambulatory-surgical centers," Hagstrom Miller said. "So we’ve only got six months here to work out some kind of arrangement in either of those facilities.”

Since the law took effect, 19 clinics in Texas that performed abortions have closed their doors, 24 clinics across the state remain open.