In February of this year, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction that prevented a limited number of prosecutors from pursuing legal action against anyone who assists a Texan seeking an abortion outside of the state’s borders. This landmark ruling has encouraged certain abortion advocacy non-profit groups, known as “abortion funds,” to resume their operations.
These groups had suspended their activities following the overturn of Roe v. Wade and the resulting confusion and fear surrounding Texas’ intersecting abortion bans. Virtually overnight, all of the state’s abortion clinics were forced to close, leaving the infrastructure that had previously supported out-of-state care inaccessible. Many people who depended on these funds for financial assistance likely could not afford to travel outside of the state on their own.
Denise Rodriguez, the communications director with the Texas Equal Access Fund, noted that the decision to pause funding was heartbreaking for everyone involved. However, now that these organizations can resume their activities, there is a renewed sense of enthusiasm and excitement.
The Dallas-based TEA Fund provides Texans with vouchers that reduce the costs of abortions at out-of-state clinics. Rodriguez indicated that they have sufficient funding to support anyone who calls between Monday, when the hotline reopens, and June 24, which marks the one-year anniversary of Roe v. Wade’s overturn. Fund Texas Choice, a statewide organization that assists with travel expenses, has reopened its hotline and is resuming limited practical support, while the Austin-based Lilith Fund has also reopened its hotline and is funding out-of-state abortions once again.
Additional groups are preparing to relaunch their funding mechanisms as well, buoyed by the temporary injunction that was granted in February. Although this ruling is not binding statewide, it has encouraged certain groups to resume their activities.
Despite this progress, abortion opponents such as State Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, have long threatened legal action against abortion funds that assist Texans seeking abortions outside of the state. Last March, Cain sent cease-and-desist letters to these groups, warning them and their donors of potential legal consequences. Cain referred to these organizations as “criminal organizations” and cautioned that it is illegal to pay for another person’s abortion in Texas.
In response to these threats, some abortion funds have taken to social media to announce their plans to resume their activities, while opponents such as Mark Lee Dickson have cautioned them about potential liability under “sanctuary city for the unborn” ordinances. These laws ban abortions within city limits and may prohibit assisting a resident with an abortion, even outside of city limits. The TEA Fund responded to Dickson’s tweet by asking its supporters to donate in his honor.
Despite the ongoing uncertainty and potential legal risks, these organizations remain committed to supporting access to safe and legal abortions for all Texans who seek them.