Amy Hagstrom Miller Of Whole Woman's Health On Supreme Court Anniversary
On June 27, 2016, the Supreme Court made a landmark decision on abortion.
That case was Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, and it's considered the most important abortion rights case in decades.
Whole Woman's Health is a health care group with locations around Texas. It was founded by Amy Hagstrom Miller, who serves as CEO. Last year, I visited their facilities in San Antonio and saw first-hand the compassionate care they provide, despite the restrictions Texas law imposed on them.
This week, I caught up with Hagstrom Miller about the past year -- and what she's paying attention to for the future of abortion rights and access.
Despite a seemingly rocky year for reproductive rights, Hagstrom Miller is hopeful for the future.
The Supreme Court decision last year looked like it was going to mark the start of a major turnaround for reproductive rights -- the Supreme Court reaffirmed the protection of abortion access, Hillary Clinton was heading towards a victory where she could've elected a pro-choice Supreme Court justice, a Democratic-majority Congress could've finally done away with the Hyde Amendment -- and then Election Day happened.
Donald Trump was elected after spewing ignorant falsities about abortion, and he got conservative Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. A Republican-majority Congress is debating a healthcare bill that threatens abortion access, and Republican state lawmakers have been emboldened to introduce new abortion-restricting laws.
But, "hope is the ultimate rebellion," Hagstrom Miller says. She explains,
The Whole Woman's Health case set a legal precedent, meaning courts have to follow it -- and we're still seeing the positive effects from that, especially on the state level.
Immediately after the ruling, restrictive laws in several states were struck down. These legal challenges are still happening around the country.
Hagstrom Miller believes we're going to see a lot of laws coming down in the upcoming year using the Whole Woman's Health precedent.
Whole Woman's Health itself already took on another Texas law, and Hagstrom Miller says she's more than prepared if they have to go for a third round against Texas lawmakers. She says,
Meanwhile, some facilities in Texas that were forced to close by the laws the Supreme Court struck down have reopened. Whole Woman's Health reopened their Austin flagship clinic this past spring. Hagstrom Miller says of that experience,
Hagstrom Miller is more concerned about the culture the Trump administration allows than the vague possibility of overturning Roe v. Wade.
Hagstrom Miller says,
She testified at the Supreme Court nomination hearings against Gorsuch, voicing concern about Gorsuch's unclear stance on abortion rights (he has not ruled in an abortion case, although he has ruled against birth control access).
Anti-abortion people have accepted "they're not going to be successful overturning Roe," Hagstrom Miller contends, but they have introduced laws that "can kind of render Roe meaningless," like the ones she's fought.
So although she's not worried about Roe itself getting overturned, she is concerned about how those state laws would be handled -- particularly if a Supreme Court justice retires and Trump gets to nominate someone else. That would tip the scales in the court. They're currently fairly balanced, with Justice Anthony Kennedy as a sort of swing vote.
Ultimately, Hagstrom Miller is celebrating today, and she's determined to continue to fight for women.
She's working with two nonprofits that you can get involved with as well -- Shift and the Whole Woman's Health Alliance.
Hagstrom Miller says,
The fight for full access is not over, but Hagstrom Miller doesn't seem at all daunted.