Abortion rights groups renew efforts to help Texans get out-of-state care
Abortion access groups have restarted fundraising to help those who need to travel to receive reproductive care.
Several nonprofit abortion rights groups in Texas are back in business following a recent ruling that allows them to help patients seek abortion care outside of the state.
After the disastrous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization last year overturning Roe v. Wade, Texas abortion clinics were forced to close in August when “trigger laws” went into effect prohibiting nearly all abortions in the state. This left many who needed the care essentially with only one option: going to clinics in other states for the procedure.
“Those who are low-income, which are predominantly Black, Indigenous, and other folks of color, and low-income folks, specifically those in rural areas, and a lot of minors, are the ones who are going to require the most support in accessing abortion care,” Kamyon Conner, the executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, told the American Independent Foundation. Conner said that over half of those who seek abortion care are already parents.
Abortions, which routinely cost between $500 and $800, depending on such factors as the type of abortion and the location, are not covered by insurance in Texas, leaving abortion-seekers dependent on abortion funds and practical support groups such as the Texas Equal Access Fund, which reopened its funding Monday for the first time since the overturn of Roe last June.
Many of the groups seized on an opportunity recently to begin funding again following a preliminary injunction filed by a federal judge in late February.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman’s ruling came in a federal class action lawsuit brought by abortion fund groups last August against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and other state and local officials that challenged the criminalization of organizations helping people pay for abortions outside the state. The order temporarily prohibits abortion fund groups from being criminally charged for helping a patient leave the state for an abortion.
Anna Rupani, the executive director of Fund Texas Choice, told the American Independent Foundation that her organization reopened its hotline and began funding again on March 9.
“We’re helping Texans who are seeking abortion services in a limited capacity. We can’t serve every Texan that calls us, regardless, and the Texans that we can legally help leave the state, we are only doing that, and we’re doing that by providing practical support, by doing that wraparound support,” Rupani said. “That means providing lodging, providing airfare or gas assistance or food assistance … from when you book your abortion appointment to getting to your abortion appointment and then coming home and prior.”
“I’d say that practical support and abortion funds are and have been the stopgap for folks to be able to get the care they need and deserve. … People don’t think about the financial strain, but our clients are the folks that really can’t afford these costs because it’s not something that’s expected,” Rupani said. “And abortion funds and practical support funds are the ones who understand that and work with those folks to be able to help mitigate some of those issues and concerns,” she added.
The injunction has a 30-day appeal period, but Conner says that so far, no appeal has been filed.
“The thing that I’m talking to my staff about at my abortion fund is that we are able to do this, but we are also prepping ourselves for the fact that we’re in a legislative session, and less than a week after the verdict of our lawsuit, there was a bill filed naming abortion funds by name,” Conner said. “Basically saying that DAs [district attorneys] can prosecute that the Attorney General has the ability to tell a DA to do whatever … Basically trying to overturn everything we won in the lawsuit.”
“We are prepped and ready, knowing that, much like with S.B. 8 [Texas Senate Bill 8], on Sept. 1, any bills that create laws in the [legislature] go into effect on the 1st of September. So we are under the assumption that we can at least fund abortions until then,” she said.
S.B. 8 is an anti-abortion law that went into effect on Sept. 1, 2021. It bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, a time before most people know they’re pregnant. The bill additionally secures a $10,000 reward for anyone who wins a lawsuit against someone who has helped an abortion seeker after six weeks, according to NARAL.
The Texas Tribune reported this week that Lilith Fund, an Austin-based abortion fund, also reopened its hotlines and will resume funding out-of-state abortion care for patients as needed.
Conner said: “There is a literal health care crisis that’s happening. … With clinics being closed, now abortion funds are the target. People who help people get the care they need are now the targets. … We’re the safety net that is doing what we can to help any Texans get the care they need around abortion. And we need folks’ support now more than ever.”
Until abortion is fully accessible and legal for everyone and “health insurance provides for it, Medicaid provides for it,” Rupani said, “funds are going to need to exist.”
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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