Texas abortion clinic bought by anti-abortion group
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For years, protesters gathered every single day exterior the final abortion clinic within the Rio Grande Valley, praying for the day it might shut.
If their prayers had been ever answered and abortion was banned, they may purchase the sandstone constructing in downtown McAllen, turning it right into a memorial to the unborn or utilizing it to accommodate their anti-abortion counseling middle.
By utilizing a shell purchaser to rip-off the constructing’s proprietor, the anti-abortion McAllen Pregnancy Center has lastly completed that aim. In mid-October, they took possession of the previous Whole Woman’s Health clinic web site.
“To say we were fooled is an understatement,” stated Whole Woman’s Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller.
How an anti-abortion nonprofit got here to personal the realm’s final abortion clinic is a narrative of actual property fraud, but additionally a widening divide between abortion clinic operators and the communities they as soon as served.
Before Roe v. Wade was overturned, clinics and neighborhood activists had been on the identical workforce—offense contained in the clinic, protection exterior. But current months have improved that dynamic.
After years of serving as companions and advocates for the clinic, neighborhood organizers say this fast-changing sale is the most recent proof that in terms of defending reproductive rights, they — and the Rio Grande Valley — are on their very own.
“It’s just a reminder that we’re in a really bad place and it’s probably going to continue to be that way for our region for quite some time,” stated Noemi Pratt, board secretary for South Texans for Reproductive Rights. “And they were so easily able to get the Trojan horse there. How did you allow that to happen so easily?”
When Hagstrom Miller solutions the cellphone, she sounds exhausted.
“It’s been a bumpy few days,” she stated. “In a few bumpy months. Or, actually, when did it start? Before SB 8, even. maybe [executive order]?”
Hagstrom Miller has operated abortion clinics in Texas for almost 20 years. It has by no means been straightforward.
When the state handed a 2013 omnibus legislation that closed half the clinics within the state, she took the case to the Supreme Court and received. In 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued an govt order to shut abortion clinics throughout the early days of the pandemic; then, the state banned abortions after about six weeks of being pregnant.
Through all of it, Whole Woman’s Health fought to remain open. But when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, there was nothing left to battle for. Whole Woman’s Health instantly closed its 4 clinics in Texas.
The group needed to attempt to promote two buildings in McAllen and Fort Worth and exit two leases, in Austin and McKinney, whereas additionally attempting to maneuver a few of its operations to New Mexico.
When the McAllen constructing got here up on the market, South Texans for Reproductive Justice reached out to Whole Woman’s Health after which launched an internet fundraiser to lift $400,000 to purchase and rework the constructing.
South Texans for Reproductive Justice needed it to turn out to be a middle for his or her ongoing battle for abortion entry and reproductive well being care within the Rio Grande Valley.
The all-volunteer nonprofit group harbored a fantasy: “We wanted to get together there and be like, ‘McAllen Pregnancy Center, you think you won, but we’re still here,'” Pratt stated, referring to the disaster being pregnant middle that goals to discourage girls from having abortions.
“It was important for the community to know that … the lights are still on and we’re still fighting,” Pratt stated.
The preliminary fundraiser was organized round serving to South Texans for Reproductive Justice buy the constructing, which might assist Whole Woman’s Health with its transfer to New Mexico.
Pratt says a lawyer for Whole Woman’s Health contacted them after the fundraiser started and instructed them they may not use the corporate’s identify of their supplies.
Hagstrom Miller says the e-mail didn’t come from the corporate’s lawyer, however from an worker who’s an lawyer. She stated Whole Woman’s Health was supportive of the group’s fundraising, however they requested South Texans for Reproductive Justice to not use their identify.
“It just felt weird that they … put it in their fundraising campaign as if they were helping us raise funds for New Mexico, when we had a separate GoFundMe for New Mexico,” Hagstrom Miller stated. “It was confusing, and that’s the part we asked them to remove.”
The fundraiser now says it is elevating cash to purchase “the now-closed abortion clinic in McAllen, Texas.” Pratt stated the momentary ban on fundraising dampened their momentum considerably.
“It doesn’t have the same impact,” she stated. “We felt like we couldn’t say the name even though that’s what it was called and everyone knew it.”
The group managed to lift almost $13,000 from 97 backers, nonetheless properly in need of their $400,000 aim. A couple of weeks in the past, Whole Woman’s Health reached out to say they’d settle for a money provide from one other occasion — a group of docs working beneath the enterprise identify Peruvian Alliance.
Hagstrom Miller stated Whole Woman’s Health, their attorneys and their realtors appeared on the group, which is led by a neighborhood physician, Luis Rosas. She stated they had been particularly excited a few younger Latino household physician who was a part of the group.
“We were thinking how wonderful it would be if it could be used for a family practice clinic, led by a bilingual physician, serving people of color and anyone who needed care in the community,” she stated. .
Within two weeks of shopping for the constructing, the Peruvian Alliance bought it to the McAllen Pregnancy Center, deed data present.
The McAllen Pregnancy Center obtained greater than $3 million prior to now three years from the state-funded Abortion Alternatives program. In 2018, it moved to “the foot of the cross,” as a promotional video put it, three doorways down from the Whole Woman’s Health clinic.
Rosas didn’t reply to requests for remark. Reached by cellphone, a girl who recognized herself solely as Selena declined to touch upon behalf of the McAllen Pregnancy Center.
The constructing they only bought has been an abortion clinic for almost 5 many years. Whole Woman’s Health bought it in 2004 from the unique tenant, an abortion supplier named Dr. Pedro Kowalyszyn.
South Texans for Reproductive Justice concern that girls won’t understand that it’s now serving as a disaster being pregnant middle that may attempt to steer them away from abortion, leaving the group within the painful place of contemplating methods to protested towards the constructing they as soon as labored so onerous for. shield
“It’s changed from one day to the next,” Pratt stated. “We need individuals to know that the constructing is not a protected house. It is not protected.”
Hagstrom Miller stated it is heartbreaking to think about their “sacred space” being surrendered to anti-abortion activists, and she or he understands the anger and betrayal that has erupted on Twitter, a lot of it directed at Whole Woman’s Health.
“Did we intend to cause harm to the community?” Hagstrom Miller stated. “Of course not. We fought with them and for them for many years. But does it trigger hurt to the neighborhood that our clinic leads to the palms of people who find themselves towards abortion? Yes, completely.
“We feel very bad that we sold our clinic to some seemingly evil people,” she stated.
Hagstrom Miller stated she advocated on the highest ranges, together with Vice President Kamala Harris, for shutdown funding that will assist clinic staff and neighborhood organizers navigate the sudden interruption of abortion entry.
She stated one funder, whom she declined to call, instructed her they did not see the purpose in investing in one thing that was “already dead.”
Without that gentle touchdown, she understands why organizers within the Valley really feel deserted—she feels deserted by the individuals above her, they usually doubtless really feel deserted by the individuals above them. All of this, she stated, comes all the way down to forces far better than clinics or organizers.
“I see all of this as a byproduct of what we’re going through as the rug is being pulled out from under the very people who have dedicated their lives to this work,” Hagstrom Miller stated. “We are all going through this grief, trauma and change in the work we love.”
Whole Woman’s Health is investigating whether or not it might take authorized motion towards the constructing’s authentic patrons. South Texans for Reproductive Justice say they intend to proceed working to discover a dwelling for his or her work, which they see as extra important than ever.
But everyone seems to be taking a swing to regroup after this newest devastating blow.
On the wall exterior the clinic, there’s a mural, painted by a neighborhood artist. Beautiful depictions of Latina girls working collectively in neighborhood are featured beneath the phrases “dignity, empowerment, compassion, justice.”
Both Pratt and Hagstrom Miller stated they cannot think about seeing that mural painted. But in addition they cannot think about seeing it used by a group that defines these phrases so in a different way than they do.
For them, there are not any good choices in sight for the mural — or abortion entry within the Rio Grande Valley.