On a hot Thursday afternoon in late June, around 100 people gathered behind Whole Woman’s Health of McAllen to celebrate the death of House Bill 2, the restrictive Texas abortion law that effectively shut down every abortion clinic in South Texas.
With purple bandannas wrapped around their heads and wrists, the pro-choice supporters listened to community leaders speak out on the trials they have faced on the reproductive justice front and what is in store for the future.
“Providing access to women of the Valley does not come without a lot of trouble,” said Kristeena Banda, the McAllen Whole Woman’s Health administrator. “Without the people fighting to get women access and to be able to access care, we wouldn’t be here. The fight will continue but, ‘Sí se pudo.’”
Since 2013, the site on South Main Street has been the only clinic offering abortion care for Deep South Texas women, with the next closest location being in San Antonio. The site only remained open due to an exemption made in 2015 by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that closing the clinic would be too harmful to women in need.
On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down HB2, which was passed in 2013 and required all clinics to maintain the standards of a surgical center, placed new prohibitions on medically induced abortions and abortion past 20 weeks of fertilization.
In response to the SCOTUS decision to strike down HB2, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said it was a move that will prove harmful to both fetuses and women.
“The decision erodes States’ lawmaking authority to safeguard the health and safety of women and subjects more innocent life to being lost,” Abbott said in the statement published on the Office of the Governor website.
The fight to maintain women’s choice has already started again. On July 1, Texas Health and Human Services Commission published a proposed rule in the Texas Register that would require abortion clinics to provide cremation or burial services for fetal remains, at the expense of women.
Abbott’s office supports the new rule and hopes that it will be passed into state law. The governor’s office could not be reached for comment by The Rider despite numerous phone calls.
Sadie Hernandez, who helped moderate the event outside Whole Woman’s Health, disagrees with Abbott. She is known for#IStandWithSadie, a nationally trending hashtag in 2014, when Planned Parenthood funding was reduced and it could no longer afford to offer breast cancer screenings. She now works as a public affairs intern with Planned Parenthood Texas.
“These men will do anything they can to take away choice from women,” the Brownsville native said. “They further restrict access to abortion by making women pay for funeral services that people can’t normally afford when an elderly person or adult dies. I’m not surprised and I don’t think it will be passed.”
Since the HB2 ruling, the high court has shut down similar laws in Florida, Wisconsin and Alabama.
According to the Department of State Health Services website, residents can submit comments on the burial service proposal within the first 30 days of its publication. The spokesman for the Texas Health Commission announced that the final decision on the proposed rule will happen in September.