San Antonio's Reproductive Justice Fund at the center of Texas' latest abortion battle
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Since abortion became illegal in Texas — first with the passage of SB8 and later with the fall of Roe v Wade — organizations have been working to help Texans access abortion care in other states. But anti-abortion groups are looking to shut them down.
In September, the San Antonio City Council passed a budget item in the amount of $500,000 to create the city’s new Reproductive Justice Fund.
“Reproductive rights are ensuring that women have access to health care in a state that lacks it," said District 3 City Councilmember Phyllis Viagran. "Texas still ranks 49th out of 50th for women's health. This is unacceptable.”
District 2 Councilmember Jalen McKee Rodriguez said the least the city could do is help underserved communities get access in places where it is legal.
“I hope we are increasing access to safe abortions where they are legal in whatever way we can legally provide that support," he said.
But not all on the council supported the line item.
District 10 Councilmember Marc Whyte tried twice to strip it out of the budget and failed.
“Take a scenario where two 25-year-olds go out tonight. They meet at a bar; they end up going home together. Ten, 15 weeks later, the woman is pregnant and wants an abortion. Should the San Antonio taxpayers have to pay for that lady to go travel to Arizona or Virginia or wherever it is to get that procedure?”
It’s been several weeks since the Reproductive Justice Fund was approved, but it’s still unknown if it will be used to pay for abortion access in other states — and if that would be seen as a violation of state law.
“There's nothing that the council is doing today that is illegal or prohibited by state law," said San Antonio City Attorney Andy Segovia.
That could change, depending on how the city allocates those dollars.
The San Antonio Family Association isn’t waiting. They filed a lawsuit to block the fund.
Patrick Von Dohlen, the co-founder of the group, said the fund’s intended purpose is illegal because it would violate Texas’ anti-abortion law.
“We are acting on behalf of taxpayers in the city of St. Anthony — San Antonio — to help protect and respect taxpayers and their hard-earned dollars that are being used for tax revenue, and to protect women and children, and want people to know that abortion and the procurement of it is illegal in the state of Texas," he said. "Participating in any part of the procurement of abortion or any process of that, chemical or surgical, is illegal.”
Von Dohlen said they will be seeking immediate action from the court to keep city funds from being used for the Reproductive Justice Fund.
“So that the judge can look at it and make a ruling that the city has indeed stepped in if they go forward, the process that they will be aiding and abetting criminal organizations, “he said.
Von Dohlen is referring to organizations like the Buckle Bunnies, which funds those who need financial help to access abortions in other states.
"They don't know what they're saying. They don't know laws, really," said Makayla Montoya Frazier, director of the Buckle Bunnies Fund.
“Funding out-of-state abortion is completely legal," she said. "We went to court, and we've won. Every single abortion organization in Texas is allowed to do exactly what they've always been doing. So, they can fight us, but we will win.”
Von Dohlen said he wants the state of Texas to do more to stop abortion seekers. He’d like to see state troopers stopping cars before they enter New Mexico.
"That'd be fantastic," he said. "If you're participating in any part of the procurement of a chemical or surgical abortion and either in Texas or going to New Mexico or any other state, then you're breaking the law."
Frazier of the Buckle Bunnies said they are closely following the law.
"But if the law keeps moving, we cannot just become obsolete, which is what they're trying to do," she said. "These lawsuits are just intended to scare us into not providing the very legal services that we do provide."
Frazier said the Buckle Bunnies receive about 60 calls a week from Texans who need abortions.
On average, they provide about $2,000 in assistance for travel, lodging and medical services.
And their bank account is running low. She said the San Antonio Reproductive Justice Fund could be coming just in time — depending on what happens in court.
TPR's Kayla Padilla contributed to this report.
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