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Austin's Funding Support of Abortions Needed Elsewhere in Texas

By: Kari White and Elizabeth J. Ela
Featured in the Abilene Reporter News and the Austin American-Statesman. First published September 27, 2019. 

Austin recently became the first city in the United States to fund logistical support for residents seeking abortion care.

This policy, which provides $150,000 in city funds for transportation, child care and other services needed to obtain the procedure, protects abortion access at the local level in Austin.

The Austin City Council has made a historic commitment to support people seeking abortion care. Cities throughout Texas should follow their lead. Overcoming logistical hurdles to getting an abortion poses a significant challenge for many Texans. 

The council’s powerful statement stands in contrast to the state Legislature’s repeated efforts during the past decade to curtail access to this essential health service. In 2013, Texas House Bill 2 imposed medically unnecessary requirements on abortion facilities and physicians.

HB 2 led to the closure of more than half of the abortion clinics in the state.

Although several provisions of HB 2 were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016, abortion services have not recovered: Only 23 facilities are providing abortions in Texas today, compared with 41 in 2012.

Due to these closures, many residents of West Texas and the Panhandle now live hundreds of miles from an abortion provider. Our research has shown that these clinic closures increased travel distances and waiting times for women seeking abortion at the remaining clinics and ultimately prevented some women from obtaining abortions.

Texas lawmakers also have passed other bills making it more expensive for people seeking abortions to get care. Because public and private insurance plans in Texas do not cover abortion in most circumstances, women must pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket for the procedure.

Due to state-level restrictions on the use of state and local funds, Austin cannot allocate any spending to pay for abortion procedures directly, as New York City did this summer.

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