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Abortion travel, doula training, text line on providers’ wish list for city repro fund

Abortion rights marchers at UTSA on Oct. 5, 2022
Brian Kirkpatrick
Abortion rights marchers at UTSA on Oct. 5, 2022.

The Reproductive Justice Fund was written into this year’s budget after local abortion access and reproductive health organizations lobbied the city council.

The most controversial piece of San Antonio’s $500,000 fund is that it could be used to pay for travel for out-of-state abortions.

The city plans to award 10% of the fund for things like food and housing insecurity, 50% for services that include sexual health education and 40% for services like home pregnancy tests and out-of-state abortion travel.

Now that the city’s application for funding has been released, several organizations have shared what they would do with the money if they were awarded it.

Organizations will be able to begin applying for funding to address sexual and reproductive health issues beginning on June 24. The fund was established in response to Texas' abortion ban.

Ariana Rodriguez is the Youth Advocacy and Community Engagement Manager at Jane’s Due Process (JDP), one of the nonprofits which may apply for funding which focuses on Texas teens.

“Young people deserve to have the full autonomy over their sexual and reproductive decisions and being awarded this money allows us to continue that work,” Rodriguez said.

She said they have not decided whether they’ll apply, but if they do, they would use the money to fund their program that connects teens to birth control and reproductive health information.

“We have a text line and hotline where young people can text us or call us if they have any questions about their bodily autonomy, if they have any sex ed questions, really anything,” she said. “Our text line and hotline also can get people repro kits, which is free Plan B, free information.”

Rodriguez said city funding would be a lifeline for grassroots organizations who have seen a drop-off in support in the two years since Roe v. Wade was overturned, and at a time when costs have multiplied.

“Every single dollar counts, and we tell people who want to donate to us [that] $5 makes a difference that could help someone get Plan B that otherwise wouldn't have gotten Plan B,” Rodriguez said. “Every dollar matters when we are working at this really small scale.”

Protestors at the San Antonio City Council meeting discussing the Reproductive Justice Fund.
Josh Peck
Protestors at the San Antonio City Council meeting discussing the Reproductive Justice Fund.

Anti-abortion groups sued the city over the fund’s potential to pay for abortion access.

The case was thrown out in April but has been appealed.

A federal judge ruled last February that state abortion bans ended at their state boundaries, and Rodriguez said she has no doubt that paying for out-of-state abortion travel is legal.

But she didn’t commit to using city funds to help women travel for out-of-state abortions, saying JDP was still in the early stages of reviewing the city’s application.

Planned Parenthood South Texas (PPST) is another organization that may apply for city dollars.

“In these times of increased need and heightened restrictions, the role of Planned Parenthood has never been more critical,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a June press conference where he called PPST’s new Fanny Fund a viable candidate for city dollars.

The roughly $200,000 Fanny Fund will work with local nonprofit partners to give vouchers to low-income patients to receive free care at its San Antonio and Rio Grande Valley clinics.

Patients can begin using those vouchers in San Antonio and Brownsville by the end of summer to receive care ranging from diabetes testing and treatment to birth control and HIV testing.

PPST is the only organization Nirenberg has endorsed for the fund, though PPST President and CEO Laura Terrill said the organization hasn't decided whether it’ll apply for Reproductive Justice Fund money.

Whether or not PPST applies for city funding to supplement the Fanny Fund, Terrill said it will not support abortions.

“Let me bring it home very simply,” Terrill said. “The Fanny Fund will not pay for people in South Texas to access abortion out of state.”

She said PPST shares resources about how to access abortions but doesn’t pay for travel and wouldn’t use city funds to do so.

PPST is the largest provider of reproductive and sexual health care in the region, and its budget dwarfs all of the grassroots organizations that put the Reproductive Justice Fund together.

The council established a $500,000 Reproductive Justice Fund last year. But it faced criticism and a lawsuit over whether it could be used to facilitate out-of-state abortion care.

Laura Molinar — co-founder and co-executive director of Sueños Sin Fronteras, which serves undocumented pregnant clients — said she believes the money from the city’s fund should go to smaller grassroots organizations like hers.

“I deeply respect the work that Planned Parenthood does,” Molinar said. “They have a lot of reach. But I do sincerely hope that the funding does go to grassroots organizations that are really trying to build their sustainability and provide more resources to reach the people they're already working with in this community.”

Terril said support for reproductive health care couldn’t be limited to only some groups.

“It takes every organization that is in service to people to make sure that their needs are met, and in the end the gap is still significant,” Terrill said.

Molinar said Sueños Sin Fronteras would gladly support travel for out-of-state abortions if it was selected to receive city funding, even though they haven’t offered the service since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

“We’re going to do everything we can to support people in need of accessing an abortion,” she said. “And if they need to go out of state, we’d be really fortunate to have that support from the Reproductive Justice Fund to be able to do that.”

But that isn’t the only thing Molinar would want to use the money for.

“So this funding would just further support our Birth Justice Program and enable us to continue providing culturally sensitive support to undocumented folks during their pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period,” she said.

The Birth Justice Program includes giving basic supplies like bottle drying racks, breast pumps, and diaper bags, as well as supplying doula services, to pregnant clients.

The city will choose between four and 10 organizations to receive funding.

Multiple city council members have said they want to support the fund again in next year’s budget, though it’s not yet clear if they have a majority.

Whyte (right), Moody (center), and Texas Alliance for Life Communications Direction Amy O'Donnell (center right) outside of City Hall on Wednesday opposing the possible use of city funds for out-of-state abortion travel.
Gaby Alcorta-Solorio
District 10 Council member Marc Whyte (right), Moody (center), and Texas Alliance for Life Communications Direction Amy O'Donnell (center right) outside of City Hall on Wednesday opposing the possible use of city funds for out-of-state abortion travel.

The three Northside council members have voiced their opposition to using taxpayer dollars to support travel for out-of-state abortions, and one of them — District 10’s Marc Whyte — abstained on last year’s budget over the issue.

An initial timeline from city staff to the city council said the Reproductive Justice Fund money wouldn’t be awarded until Spring of 2025, but that timeline may move up after complaints from multiple council members over how long the community has had to wait since the fund was passed last October.

When the money is eventually awarded, it will mean San Antonio taxpayer dollars will be used to support reproductive health care — likely including travel for out-of-state abortions.

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