Oct 17, 2023 - News

Anti-abortion groups sue San Antonio over funding for abortion-related expenses

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A coalition of anti-abortion groups sued the city of San Antonio on Tuesday, seeking to prevent officials from giving public money to any group that pays for abortion-related travel or obtains abortions for Texans.

Flashback: The City Council approved $500,000 for a reproductive health fund in this year's budget, which took effect Oct. 1. Members discussed, but did not decide, whether the money could help cover travel for out-of-state abortions. Abortion supporters had pushed for the fund.

  • The money, administered by the city's health department, could also be used for such services as testing for sexually transmitted infections and reproductive health training. The city planned to define specifics later.

Why it matters: The case could offer a legal test on whether Texas cities can fund organizations that support abortions in other states, even if the money does not go toward abortion-related expenses.

The big picture: Plaintiffs argue that any taxpayer money going toward groups helping to obtain abortions elsewhere is against state law.

  • "That includes grants to these organizations even if the money is earmarked for non-abortion purposes, because any such grant aids and abets their criminal activities by freeing up money and resources," the lawsuit reads.

Of note: The state abortion ban, which took effect last year, prohibits abortions and also outlaws anyone from assisting a Texan in obtaining an abortion.

  • District 10 Councilmember Marc Whyte, the lone conservative on the council, was the only member to oppose creation of the fund.

Zoom in: The lawsuit names organizations among those that advocated for the San Antonio fund: Jane's Due Process, Avow, the Buckle Bunnies Fund, Sueños Sin Fronteras and the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity. It says many facilitate or pay for out-of-state abortions for Texans.

  • "We will be taking discovery from every one of these abortion funds to expose their violations of state law and the criminal activities of their members and donors," John Seago, president of plaintiff Texas Right to Life, said in a statement.

What they're saying: Seago said the group will sue any Texas city that gives taxpayer money to abortion funds or abortion-assistance organizations.

  • "We will not allow the city of San Antonio to give taxpayer money to criminal organizations that engage in abortion trafficking and disregard the pro-life laws of our state," he said.

The other side: "It is unfortunate taxpayer funds will be spent on defending against this lawsuit based on misinformation and false allegations," city attorney Andy Segovia said in a statement.

  • City officials have not decided how the money will be used, but they will distribute it in accordance with state and federal laws, Segovia said.

Details: Other plaintiffs include the San Antonio Family Association and the Bexar County Republican Party. Mayor Ron Nirenberg and city manager Erik Walsh are named as defendants, in addition to the city.

What's next: The City Council will discuss at a future work session how to use the reproductive health fund, Segovia said.

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