Some Texas groups resume funding out-of-state abortions after court ruling

A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction in February, blocking a limited number of prosecutors from going after anyone who helps a Texan travel out of state to terminate a pregnancy. This has given some abortion funds confidence to resume.

click to enlarge Londin Mair protests for abortion access at the Capitol on Oct. 2, 2021. - The Texas Tribune / Michael Gonzalez
The Texas Tribune / Michael Gonzalez
Londin Mair protests for abortion access at the Capitol on Oct. 2, 2021.
Some abortion advocacy nonprofit groups have resumed paying for Texans to get abortions out of state after a court ruling last month.

These groups, called abortion funds, stopped paying for abortion procedures and travel to out-of-state clinics after the overturn of Roe v. Wade, citing confusion and fear of violating Texas’ intersecting abortion bans.

Virtually overnight, all of Texas’ abortion clinics closed — and the infrastructure that helped Texans access out-of-state care evaporated alongside them. Many of the people these funds work with likely could not afford to leave the state without their financial support, said Denise Rodriguez, communications director with the Texas Equal Access Fund.

“When we found out we had to pause funding, that was something that was really heartbreaking for everybody on our team,” Rodriguez said. “Now that we’re able to start funding abortions again, that’s what this organization was started for, so everybody is just excited.”

The Dallas-based TEA Fund provides Texans vouchers that lessen the costs of abortions at out- of-state clinics. Rodriguez said they have enough funding to assist anyone who calls in between Monday, when their hotline reopens, and June 24, the one-year anniversary of the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

Fund Texas Choice, a statewide group that assists with travel expenses, said on Twitter that they have reopened their hotline and are resuming limited practical support.

Other groups are preparing to relaunch their funding mechanisms as well. This flurry of activity comes after a federal judge granted a temporary injunction in February, blocking a handful of county prosecutors from pursuing charges against anyone who helps a Texan access abortion out of state.

The ruling is not binding statewide, but it has reassured some groups enough to resume operations. 

“All of it is so uncertain, but we’re going to fund abortions until we’re forced to stop,” Rodriguez said. 

Abortion opponents, including state Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, have long threatened legal action against abortion funds for helping Texans leave the state for abortion. Last March, Cain sent cease-and-desist letters, warning the funds that they and their donors were violating the law. 

“These are criminal organizations,” Cain wrote. “It is a crime to pay for another person’s abortion in Texas, and anyone who gives money to these abortion funds will be prosecuted.”

As abortion funds celebrated the recent court ruling and announced their new plans on Twitter, abortion opponent Mark Lee Dickson replied, warning them about potential liability under “sanctuary city for the unborn” ordinances.

These ordinances, which Dickson has helped pass in more than 50 cities nationwide, ban abortion within city limits, and some prohibit assisting a resident with an abortion, even outside city limits. These laws have not been tested in court. 

The TEA Fund responded to Dickson’s tweet, asking their supporters to make a donation in his honor.

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