Low-Income Austin Residents Could Soon Get Funding for Abortion ‘Logistical Support.’ Here’s What That Means

August 21, 2019, 12:59 PM UTC

Four Austin City Councilmembers are taking action to ensure low-income residents can access abortion care.

On Monday, Councilmembers Leslie Pool, Delia Garza, Gregorio Casar, and Paige Ellis announced a budget amendment that would allocate up to $150,000 in funding to logistical support services for abortion.

Advocates say the amendment is the first of its kind in the United States.

The amendment is the result of organizing efforts led by reproductive justice organizations in Texas, including the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity and NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, who seek to push reproductive rights and justice policy items in cities across the state.

If passed, the budget amendment could help support the costs of travel, childcare, emotional care, and other services Austin residents might need while seeking abortion care. The funds would be issued through the Austin Public Health department as part of a competitive and open bidding process.

City Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Garza said the budget amendment is a way “to address institutionally driven differences in the quality of life among Austin residents. Access to health care, including abortion, is an equity issue.” Garza added that assisting residents with logistical services around abortion care is just another way to meet the community’s needs. “We already help Austin residents with transportation or child care in other situations.”

The effort comes as anti-abortion hostility ramps up nationwide, but especially across the South and Midwest.

Since January, anti-abortion legislators with help from conservative, anti-abortion organizations have launched an assault on reproductive rights, introducing nearly 400 anti-abortion measures in states across the country.

Some state legislatures have attempted to get “heartbeat bills” on the books, banning abortion once a heartbeat is detected. Some have introduced gestational age bans, banning the procedure anywhere from six weeks to 20 weeks gestation. But the frequency of anti-choice bills and abortion bans introduced this year has been shocking, advocates say.

Amanda Williams, the executive director of the Lilith Fund, an Austin-based abortion fund, told Fortune the barriers to accessing abortion care are discriminatory, as low-income residents, women of color, immigrants, and people with disabilities face the most restrictions.

“The most common needs we’re seeing on the ground are for transportation, lodging, childcare, and emotional support,” said Williams, who added that advocates are hopeful this funding can help “reduce the amount of people who are having to choose between healthcare and paying rent.” 

Texas is home to some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

Abortion is banned after 20 weeks post-fertilization, and state law requires people to make two separate trips to an abortion provider before having the procedure. Texas also requires a 24-hour waiting period after receiving a sonogram before a patient can have an abortion.

To make matters more complicated, most counties in the state don’t even have an abortion provider, with nearly 900,000 women of reproductive age living more than 150 miles from an abortion clinic, according to the ACLU of Texas. As a result, many people have to travel long distances for the medical procedure.

And with an ultra-conservative majority in the Supreme Court, conservative lawmakers have continued chipping away at reproductive rights.

Earlier this year Texas lawmakers passed Senate Bill 22, banning local governments from giving money to organizations that provide abortions and their affiliates, even if the funds are not being used for abortions.

Some cities have even tried to criminalize assisting people in their abortion process. In June, the all-male city council of Waskom, a small town in northeast Texas, voted to ban both abortion and helping people obtain an abortion. Lawmakers said the measure would make Waskom a “sanctuary for the unborn.

In response to these statewide efforts, reproductive rights and health activists are building relationships with local officials to increase access to reproductive healthcare, and ensuring that residents know their rights.

Advocates are hopeful Austin’s budget amendment can set a precedent for cities to continue expanding access to reproductive healthcare moving forward.

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