With a Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade expected in the next few weeks, nowhere else is the urgency and anger felt more than with abortion funds, groups that provide financial support for those seeking abortions.
In Texas, these abortion funds are already facing down Senate Bill 8, the state’s six-week abortion ban, as well as a slew of other anti-abortion laws that have made their role more prominent than ever.
Because of the increasingly restrictive costs of receiving an abortion, and because Texas prohibits private and state-offered insurance from covering abortion, the network of growing abortion funds has slowly become the state’s unofficial-official health insurance network for low-income Texans seeking abortion care.
That includes helping to pay for abortions and associated travel costs, and assistance with the state’s purposely burdensome prerequisites for abortion care — all forms of help that have drawn the attention of right-wing lawmakers promising to act in the next session of the Texas legislature.
At a rally in downtown Houston this week, abortion funds and their allies voiced their concerns for the future, as well as how the fightback was changing under the state’s six-week abortion ban and looming end of abortion protections from Roe.
“We are the only solution, we are not just a workaround solution,” said Jaylynn Farr Munson, development and communications director for Texas Fund Choice, a non-profit abortion fund that pays for abortion travel costs.
Speaking to a crowd made up largely of activists that gathered at Peggy Park to participate in the “Liberate Abortion Caravan,” an organizing event that will see activists travel from Austin to Missipsispi to raise awareness, Munson said Texas Fund Choice was doing everything in its power and looking at every possible angle to continue doing its work.
“But we don’t know what that work is going to look like going forward,” Munson said. “We’ve been operating in a hostile climate for so long and we need your support now more than ever before.”
Texas Fund Choice was founded in response to House Bill 2, a restrictive law that halved the number of abortion clinics in the state. It was the same law then-Texas Senator Wendy Davis attempted to filibuster in 2013, and although certain provisions of the law were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2016, much of the damage remains permanent with less than two dozen abortion clinics operating in the state.
Munson said she quit her job to join Texas Fund Choice after she had to travel out of the state last year for an abortion because of Texas’ six-week ban. She warned that when the decision by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe was final, practical abortion funds would be the only way to sustain abortion access.
“I don’t know if there’s Marvel fans out there but we’ve reached the endgame,” Munson said. “It’s the endgame in an all out war on abortion rights that’s been waged for decades by the right.”
Following Senate Bill 8, the number of abortions in Texas have fallen by half according to the Texas Policy Evaluation Project. Their research offers a low estimate of roughly 1,400 Texans a month leaving the state for abortion care. Many more patients have sought self-managed medication abortions, which have also been recently targeted by state lawmakers and restricted to only seven weeks of pregnancy instead of the FDA-approved 10 weeks of pregnancy.
“We’re continuing to provide care for people who qualify for an abortion in Texas but we’ve also helped, at this point, thousands of people travel out of state when they’re unable to get that care closer to home,” said Dr. Bhavik Kumar, a seven-year physician with Planned Parenthood in Houston.
“We’ve seen people anxious, outraged, we’ve seen them depleted in trying to overcome the barriers required to get care out of state,” Kumar said, “and we’ve seen folks that are unable to travel to another state and instead are forced to carry their pregnancies to term.”
Lindsay Rae, owner of the Two Headed Dog bar in Midtown and a member of the women’s health-focused nonprofit “I’ll Have What She’s Having” said the organization has raised $112,000 to fund abortions.
The organization is launching the “1973 Project,” a nationwide effort to support abortions funds. The group also plans to begin funding vasectomies as well.
Until recently, Rae said the nonprofit had historically focused on providing free mental healthcare and cancer screenings for service industry workers.
“A year ago, our fight changed,” Rae said. “And our fight specifically started funding abortions because we saw so many women that already did not have healthcare.”
Many activists said Texas was already operating in a world without Roe. The ongoing fight for abortion rights would require going beyond it.
“Y’all, Roe is in trouble, and it’s bad, but Roe is the floor, the bare minimum,” said Jeana Nam, an abortion storyteller with We Testify. “We’ve been given crumbs for decades and this is the moment to build power for long-term change.”
Lupe Rodriguez, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, one of the three abortion justice groups that helped free a 26-year-old woman in Starr County charged with murder for a self-induced abortion, said Roe had never fully guarnteed the right to an abortion.
“We know that this fight for abortion access has always been about so much more than just a fucking court case,” Rodriguez said.
“For a really long time our movement, our collective movements, have focused and relied way too much on legislation and fighting court battles to protect our rights and access to reproductive healthcare,” Rodriguez said. “And we can’t keep doing that, that is why we’re in this position.”
The actual right to an abortion would be acocmplished by those on the ground and with investments into activists.
The group of activists with the caravan are bound for Mississippi where they will arrive on Friday to continue to sound the alarm.
In an interview, Sharmin Hossain, campaign director Liberate Abortion, the coallition of more than 150 reproductive justice groups and abortion providers that organized the caravan, said Mississippi is where the heart of the battle is because of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case.
“We have to really center and honor the 5th Circuit, which is where this case is taking place, as a place where we support organizers, support abortion funds and people who are on the front lines,” Hossain said.
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org