This week, the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance (WWHA) announced that they will be opening two new clinics, one in Charlottesville, Virginia and the other in South Bend, Indiana. While there was resistance from anti-abortion protesters, this announcement was met with resounding support from a number of women’s health advocates.
“Nearly a year after the election of the most anti-abortion administration in decades, Whole Woman’s Health Alliance is doubling down on what we do best: providing compassionate holistic care and proclaiming loudly and proudly that every day, good women have abortions. We will go where they need us the most,” read a statement by Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health.
In 2016, Whole Woman’s Health led the fight against Texas’s HB 2 law, which required clinics offering abortion services to comply with ambulatory surgical center standards, as well as mandated that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The Supreme Court eventually overturned the law and ruled that both provisions constitute an undue burden on women seeking abortion.
After the Supreme Court ruling establishing an undue burden, the Virginia Board of Health approved amendments to do away with the unconstitutional and medically unnecessary requirements that the state had originally passed in 2011. While this would have put Virginia in compliance with the Supreme Court decision, the anti-abortion Family Foundation of Virginia stepped in and filed a lawsuit in March alleging that procedure had been violated, delaying its implementation.
Virginia and Indiana are both considered “extremely hostile” in regard to abortion access. Before an abortion, women in Virginia are required to endure mandated counseling, a 24 hour waiting period, and an ultrasound where they are asked if they would like to view an image of the fetus.
Virginia only has thirteen clinics that provide abortion services, leaving nearly 78% of women without access to an abortion provider in her own county. Additionally, Virginia has 58 crisis pregnancy centers, which often have no doctors on staff, but rather are used to deceive, manipulate, and shame pregnant women seeking information abortion.
Similarly, Indiana faces a serious lack of abortion access with only six open clinics. South Bend has not had a functioning clinic since 2015. But there has been some legal progress. In September, a federal judge struck down several provisions of an anti-abortion law that outlawed abortion in cases of severe genetic abnormalities. The same law required all fetuses to be cremated or buried.
Even though new clinic doors are opening, threats and harassment against abortion providers is still at a high. According to the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Violence Survey, the number of clinics experiencing the most severe types of threats and violence, including death threats, stalking and blocking clinic access, dramatically increased from 19.7 percent of providers in 2014 to 34.2 percent of survivors in 2016. Also in 2016, half of clinics nationwide experienced at least one incident of severe violence and/or at least one incident of severe harassment, such as a break-in or vandalism. The overwhelming majority of clinics (91.1%) report experiencing some type of anti-abortion activity, with 63.2 percent of providers experiencing activity at least once a week.
Media Sources: Whole Women’s Health 10/30/17, South Bend Tribune 10/25/17, WSBT 10/30/17; Feminist Majority Foundation 8/11/17, 10/5/17, 2/9/17.