The walk from the rear parking lot at Whole Woman’s Health to the entrance on Main Street is 100 feet down a sidewalk. The clinic is located in southwest McAllen, Texas at the corner of Main and Houston Streets—both of which are busy thoroughfares that run through the old medical area where Whole Woman’s is. People driving by on those streets have been honking their horns at patients and volunteers outside the newly re-reopened clinic all day.
Next to the clinic is an empty lot filled with wooden signs that say things like, “Abortion, The Ultimate Child Abuse.” This is the same lot where protesters recently built a miniature cemetery for unborn babies. A group of picketers follows each patient from the protection of the parking lot to the door. The sidewalk is public property and it’s the anti-choice picketer’s last chance to, maybe, change a mind. Stepping behind the concrete wall that hides the heavily tinted glass door entrance to the clinic’s waiting room feels like sanctuary. No one on Main Street can see in there—it’s safe. For the woman walking to the front door of a clinic that’s been empty for six months, the wait is almost over. She stands at the door until someone in the waiting room lets her inside.
The patients who came to Whole Woman’s Health McAllen this past weekend had been waiting a long time for assistance. On March 6, two Whole Woman’s Health locations—the one in McAllen and another in Beaumont, Texas—closed because they could no longer afford to stay open without being able to provide abortions.
House Bill 2, a Texas bill that went into effect on October 29, 2013, places highly restrictive provisions on abortion procedures, much like existing legislation in Mississippi. When HB2 went into effect last October, Whole Woman’s McAllen was among over 20 Texas clinics that had to either stop providing abortions or close. The bill has been opposed most prominently by Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for Texas’ upcoming gubernatorial election. Davis recently released a memoir describing her own abortions.
Texas is suffering. With every added provision, more clinics are forced to close. Before HB2, Texas had 42 abortion clinics. Currently, counting the recently re-opened McAllen clinic, there are 20. Another Fifth Circuit hearing on September 12th could make Texas a state with over 26 million people and only seven abortion providers. This makes receiving an abortion in Texas devastatingly difficult for anyone living outside of Houston, Dallas or Austin. For women living in the Rio Grande Valley, it’s almost impossible.