AUSTIN (KXAN) — Tucked away off South Interstate 35 near Woodland Avenue, amid canvassing trees and along a small creek, lies Austin Women’s Health Center. For nearly 50 years, the independent clinic has provided reproductive health care services for patients in the Austin area.
In the year since the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the implementation of Texas’ abortion ban, staff said the clinic is now at a “crisis point,” with an active fundraiser in place to help keep the facility open.
“The past year has been a rollercoaster,” said Julie Smith, a former Austin Women’s Health Center employee. She, alongside several other employees, lost their jobs at the clinic after revenues plummeted following the overturn of Roe, she said. Smith now serves in a consultant capacity for the clinic.
“We pretty much had to figure out overnight how we were going to make it work and continue to provide all the other health care services that we were providing: miscarriage management, early pregnancy [detection and care], ultrasounds, contraception, gynecological and sexual health care,” Smith added.
Per the GoFundMe, the clinic has served more than 3,000 patients since last June. Those services include more than 1,000 early pregnancy ultrasounds, more than 250 post-abortion follow-ups, more than 150 contraceptive device insertions and have aided 25 patients in managing their miscarriages.
Since Roe’s overturn, Smith said the clinic has seen more patients for non-abortion care services than before its overturn, with a significant amount of patients being seen for pre-abortion care who are seeking abortion services outside the state. However, patient numbers are about half of what they were prior to that Supreme Court decision.
While abortions are no longer authorized in Texas, Smith said a trickle-down impact has been the closures of several other reproductive health care facilities throughout the state, including Whole Woman’s Health in Austin. Those facilities weren’t strictly providing just abortions; their closures mean even more limited health care access for patients in need of care, Smith said.
“A lot of the clinics that provide abortion services also provided a lot of these other reproductive health care services,” she said. “As clinics like ours close, then those patients have nowhere to go.”
Smith said many patients have come to Austin Women’s Health Center without insurance or are on Medicaid and don’t have a wide variety of service options. When these facilities close, those options dwindle further, she said.
As Austin Women’s Health Center fundraises to maintain clinic operations, she encouraged residents to donate if possible or support services by becoming a patient. Otherwise, she said sharing the fundraiser on social media and within your community can help amplify support.
“For us, as a clinic, we felt that it was really important to stick around because this care is important,” Smith said.