Texas abortion funds continue to fill in healthcare gaps amid state’s ban

Don’t mess with Texas abortion funds.

Abortion funds in the South have always been the ones minding the gap between pregnant people and their federally mandated right to an abortion. A state ban, even the first of its kind, won’t stop them, they say. 

Case in point: With Texas banning nearly all abortions this week, abortion funds are doing all they can to make sure patients get the healthcare they need.

At Whole Woman’s Health in Fort Worth, medical staff worked until the last minute late Tuesday night—with anti-abortion protesters outside shining spotlights on the clinic and shouting through megaphones—to provide as many abortions as possible before it became illegal. At midnight, Texas’ Senate Bill 8 went into effect, banning all abortions after six weeks gestation.

Cristina Parker, communications director for the Lilith Fund, a Texas-based abortion fund, said they are helping patients seeking abortions travel out of state for care.

“For decades we have been helping people access care in a state that was already really hard to get an abortion,” Parker said. “We are here and we may be able to help.”

The new law prohibits abortions as early as six weeks, a small window when many people do not yet know they are pregnant, and allows private citizens to sue providers who perform abortions outside of that window. 

Under the law, private individuals can be awarded $10,000 or more in damages for bringing a successful suit against anyone plaintiffs believe “aided or abetted” an abortion outside the six-week window, which opponents of the law believe could be interpreted broadly. Although other states have attempted to pass similar so-called heartbeat bills, the Texas law is the first in the post-Roe v. Wade era to empower individuals rather than government officials to enforce the law, creating a legal loophole that allowed the ban to go into effect.

Parker said the beginning of the pandemic was a trial run of sorts for how to run an abortion fund in a post Roe V. Wade world. Texas’ governor banned all abortions for four weeks in 2020, deeming them unnecessary medical procedures.

“Even with Roe, folks in the South have faced so many barriers that for some people, abortion is completely inaccessible,” Parker said. “So what does it mean to have the right to abortion if you can’t get one because there’s no clinic; because you live past the Border Patrol checkpoints; because you can’t afford it; because you can’t take time off to travel to another state to get it.”

When abortions were outlawed during the pandemic, Parker said some patients had to travel as far as New York and California to receive care. Now neighboring states such as Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado will pick up the state’s lapse in care.

Texas abortion advocates encourage people looking to support pregnant people affected by the ban to donate to local abortion funds.

Staci Fox, CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates, said the success of the Texas ban could inspire copycat laws in other states that are hostile to abortion such as Georgia. She said in a statement, the organization plans to sue Georgia over a similar six-week abortion ban later this month.

“A threat to outlaw abortion in Texas is a threat to legal abortion everywhere. And today’s ruling just shows that the fight to maintain access to reproductive health care services for millions of people is not over,” Fox said.

Robin Marty author of “Handbook for a Post-Roe America” and an abortion clinic director in Alabama said she has long prepared for Roe to be challenged.

“We’ve spent years telling people that the right to a legal abortion was one step away from disappearing, and everyone said we were being dramatic,” Marty said. “Even until 11:59 p.m. August 31, people believed that somehow, someone would step in and stop this from happening. But they didn’t. And we knew this was coming. In the end, it’s ironic that Roe ended through the utter silence of the Supreme Court. But we aren’t going to be silent about this now, and that’s how we will win this right back.”Her book, which details how to navigate reproductive medicine in a world that criminalizes abortion, was made available as a free download in light of the Texas ban.

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