Apr 10, 2024 - News

Fight over city funds for abortion travel continues in San Antonio

Illustration of two hands pulling on either side of a rope with a hundred dollar bill tied in the middle

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

The city's new reproductive justice fund could go toward residents traveling outside Texas to get an abortion, alongside several maternal health needs in San Antonio, city officials said Wednesday.

Why it matters: The city faces an ongoing lawsuit over the $500,000 fund from a coalition of anti-abortion groups seeking to prevent public money from going to any group that pays for abortion-related travel or helps Texans obtain abortions.

What they're saying: "Public funds should be used to promote health, period. That includes providing women with the means to get (the) care of their choice, even if it's in another state," said District 6 Councilmember Melissa Cabello Havrda, who vocally supported the use of fund money to travel for abortion.

Catch up quick: The city sought to dismiss the lawsuit last month, arguing the City Council hasn't yet decided what the fund will cover, KSAT reported. The judge hasn't yet ruled on the request.

The latest: City attorney Andy Segovia said Wednesday's staff suggestion and subsequent council discussion is still not a decision.

  • "Whenever the council makes a decision on how the money is going to be spent, it will be compliant with the law," Segovia said.

The other side: John Seago, president of Texas Right to Life, one of the suit's plaintiffs, tells Axios he didn't expect to see council members "double down" in light of the litigation. He says it doesn't matter that the council hasn't made a formal decision.

  • "There is technically not a vote, but this shows the direction the City Council still wants to go," Seago says.
  • "Today is about whether we should use our citizens' tax dollars to fund out-of-state abortions," District 10 Councilmember Marc Whyte, the only conservative councilmember, said. "And the answer to that is no, no, no, we shouldn't."

Zoom in: Among San Antonio's other needs for the reproductive justice fund, as suggested by city health department Metro Health, are:

  • Sexual health education for young people
  • Doula training scholarships and subsidized doulas
  • Emergency contraception
  • Contraception training for family medicine providers
  • Transportation to prenatal care
  • Telehealth visits for sexually transmitted infections
  • STI home test kits

Zoom out: City officials pointed to other places with similar efforts. They listed Austin; Harris County; St. Louis; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; New York City; Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

  • Austin stopped funding abortion transportation after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
  • St. Louis planned to use federal funds to help people access abortion in Illinois, but a judge blocked the program.

What's next: The city will issue a request for proposals this summer from organizations looking to use the money.

  • The council will vote on the contracts in the fall.
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