Practical abortion support for Texans during COVID-19
For many people seeking an abortion, the process isn’t nearly as simple as getting from point A to point B. Abortion restrictions in Texas cause huge rifts in our every day lives, especially when there are no nearby clinics, leaving many with no choice but to make last-minute travel plans to access the care they need.
If a person is struggling to cover the cost of their procedure, they most likely also need help reaching a clinic. That’s where practical support groups come in.
Meeting folks where they’re at
Some practical support groups provide in-person, compassionate support and drive folks to their appointments; others such as Fund Texas Choice help with transportation and lodging to help them get to their appointment(s) safely and smoothly. Fund Texas Choice was founded in the wake of HB 2 back in 2014, when over half of the abortion clinics in Texas were forced to close.
As the program coordinator of Fund Texas Choice, I have seen people of all ages, ZIP codes, and identities be forced into a situation where they have to put their lives on hold, leaving behind children and having to miss work or school just to have an abortion — a time-sensitive, legal medical procedure. For many of our clients, they might be traveling long distances for the first time, alone, to get their abortion. This can make a personal decision feel wrong or isolating, the intended effect for anti-abortion, extremist lawmakers.
In many ways, practical support is no more than connecting the dots for folks who struggle to navigate the complex process of reaching a clinic. While we help folks with transportation, lodging, and other needs along the way such as food or diapers, everyone’s situation is different and therefore the accommodations we offer are designed to meet folks where they’re at.
Accessing care during COVID-19
Accessing any reproductive health services, especially for rural Texas communities, presented mounting challenges prior to COVID-19. But at the start of the pandemic, Gov. Greg Abbott and indicted-Attorney General Ken Paxton did everything in their power to enforce a statewide abortion block, showing us that their extremist political views take priority over the health of our communities.
Not only did the executive order cause panic and distress at clinics, but people were putting themselves and those around them at risk by traveling long distances as statewide shutdowns began. This also left fewer options for bus routes, flights, and hotel stays for our clients. To mediate the influx of people traveling out of state, other practical support groups such as Brigid Alliance and Midwest Access Coalition also stepped in to cover Texans’ travel so that more people could get to their abortion appointments during the block.
What conservative Texas lawmakers don’t seem to understand is that people always have and always will have abortions despite the proliferation of attacks on abortion access.
Abortion care is essential, time-sensitive health care.
When we say bodily autonomy is at the crux of reproductive justice, it means being able to choose if, when, and how we parent. And whether or not we’re able to make that decision is more complicated than making a choice, especially in Texas and other states with draconian policies related to abortion access, sex education, maternal health, and more. We should be able to have an abortion or carry a pregnancy to term safely during a pandemic without the intervention of politicians.
Because abortion restrictions perpetuate systems of oppression and surveillance of our bodies, paying for people’s abortions and helping them get to a clinic is a radical act of community care. Practical support offers material resources as a direct response to the current political landscape to make abortion access a reality for anyone who needs one.
How cities can support Texans
In spite of growing hostility from anti-abortion groups, Austin City Council recently redirected $250K from APD to go directly towards helping Austin residents with practical support. A $100K increase from last year, the move was led by Lilith Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice Texas as a creative way to funnel city funding away from policing and into childcare, lodging, transportation, and doula support for people seeking an abortion.
Since state laws directly ban cities from funding the abortion procedure itself, funding practical support is one of many ways advocates are fighting back against the current restrictions. And other Texas cities should follow suit to support Texans.
The pandemic hasn’t shown us anything new about issues in our society that need to be transformed, such as housing, education, health care, and the prison industrial complex. But as a global health crisis swirls on amidst a mass uprising, reimagining community care must include the realities of abortion access.
Sarah Lopez is the Program Coordinator at Fund Texas Choice and a storyteller with We Testify Texas, a program dedicated to building the leadership of people who have had abortions. At Fund Texas Choice, Sarah manages the warmline and handles the day-to-day travel plans for clients. She is originally from the border town of El Paso.