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As Texas Cracks Down On Abortion, Austin Votes To Help Women Defray Costs

This story is a part of a partnership that features KUT, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

This story may be republished without cost (details).

Austin is about to change into the nation’s first metropolis to fund teams that assist ladies searching for abortions pay for associated logistical prices, similar to a babysitter, a lodge room or transportation.

The transfer pushes again in opposition to a Texas legislation that took impact Sept. 1. The state legislation bans native governments from giving cash to organizations that present abortions — even when that cash doesn’t pay for the process.

Last week, the Austin City Council permitted the associated line merchandise within the metropolis’s newest price range. Starting Oct. 1, it units apart $150,000 to be handed alongside to nonprofits that present “logistical support services” for low-income ladies within the metropolis searching for an abortion.

None of the teams present abortion, so supporters of the brand new metropolis price range merchandise describe it as a novel workaround to the state’s legislation.

“The city has to find creative ways to help vulnerable communities in our city, and I see this as just another way,” mentioned Councilwoman Delia Garza.

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John Seago, the legislative director for Texas Right to Life, mentioned that although Austin just isn’t violating the letter of the state legislation, its leaders are clearly violating “the principle” behind it.

“The legislature did not believe that it is ethical to use taxpayer dollars to benefit the abortion industry,” Seago mentioned. “So whether it is the clinic itself, whether it is paying for the procedure itself, there is an industry built around that that we don’t want to use taxpayer dollars to benefit.”

Shortly after town’s price range handed, former Austin Councilman Don Zimmerman sued town in an effort to dam the funding. In his lawsuit, filed in a Travis County district courtroom, Zimmerman claimed “this expenditure of taxpayer money violates the state’s abortion laws.”

Supporters of Austin’s effort say the price range merchandise is on strong authorized floor. They additionally say it’s an necessary step to make sure that low-income ladies, a minimum of regionally, can receive authorized abortions in a state that has been steadily limiting entry to the process previously decade.

Erika Galindo, an organizer with the Lilith Fund, informed the Austin City Council throughout a gathering this summer time that Austin ought to take a stand as some cities cross all-out bans on abortion. Earlier in the summertime, Waskom — a small metropolis in East Texas — banned the process and declared itself the state’s first “sanctuary city for the unborn.”

“The city of Austin has an opportunity to set a new standard for creative and equitable solutions for communities at a time when state lawmakers and local governments like Waskom’s city council have turned their backs on low-wage workers and women of color,” Galindo mentioned.

Austin’s metropolis leaders mentioned the make-up of their metropolis council probably performed a job within the resolution to fund applications that present logistical help. While Waskom’s ban was handed by an all-male council, Austin has a majority-female metropolis council.

“I don’t think it’s any coincidence that you have a majority-female council making these kinds of issues a priority,” Garza mentioned. “We have seen how this right has been chipped away at — all kinds of barriers being placed in front of women who are simply seeking an option that is still a constitutional right in this country.”

More than half of the abortion clinics in Texas have closed since 2013, going from 40 clinics to 17. Broad swaths of the massive state haven’t any abortion suppliers.

City leaders and workers in Austin are nonetheless figuring out how ladies will qualify for the cash and what teams to contract with, however teams already doing this work throughout the state will probably get among the metropolis funding.

Among these teams is Fund Texas Choice, a statewide nonprofit that gives journey preparations for abortion appointments for girls in Texas who can’t afford them. Organizer Sarah Lopez mentioned the group’s assist can embody offering ladies with fuel cash, bus tickets or ride-sharing — and generally a lodge room to recuperate in.

More usually than not, Lopez mentioned, she’s serving to ladies who’re already dad and mom and who can barely afford the abortion process itself — not to mention the prices that include making it to the appointment. For many of those ladies, she mentioned, somewhat assist goes a great distance.

“I was chatting with someone yesterday,” Lopez mentioned. “She had just made her appointment but then rescheduled because she was like, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize I would have to be gone for three or four days — so I had to push my appointment another week and a half in order to find child care.’”

Texas legislation requires a minimum of two workplace visits earlier than a girl can get an abortion. And ladies dwelling in rural elements of the state usually should journey 200 miles away, or extra, to the closest abortion clinic.

In 2013, Texas lawmakers handed a controversial legislation that imposed strict restrictions on abortion suppliers within the state. That legislation, often called House Bill 2, required clinics to be geared up and staffed like surgical facilities, and it required docs who present abortions to have admitting privileges at a close-by hospital. Following that legislation’s passage, many clinics across the state shut their doorways.

The U.S. Supreme Court eventually struck down these restrictions, however lots of the clinics have yet to reopen ― particularly the clinics that closed in rural elements of Texas.

Now ladies who reside exterior main cities usually face massive journey obstacles once they search an abortion. The new funds allotted by Austin are just for ladies who reside inside the metropolis.

Women dwelling in elements of the state that don’t have a clinic will proceed to depend on statewide applications such because the one run by Lopez’s group.

Lopez mentioned Austin’s effort takes off among the monetary strain on teams like hers and frees up more cash for girls dwelling in rural areas.

“I think it’s incredible,” Lopez mentioned of the Austin resolution. “I really hope to see that other cities in Texas kind of follow suit.”

This story is a part of a partnership that features KUT, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

This story is a part of a partnership that features KUT, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

This story may be republished without cost (details).

KHN’s protection of girls’s well being care points is supported partly by The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Ashley Lopez, KUT: alopez@kut.org”>alopez@kut.org, @‪AshLopezRa‪dio

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