Austin, Texas Becomes First U.S. City To Fund 'Abortion Support Services,' Covering Costs Of Travel, Lodging And Childcare

Austin, Texas has become the first city in the United States to fund an "abortion support services" plan that will help low-income women cover the costs of accessing abortion, from transportation fees to the costs of lodging and childcare.

Pro-abortion advocates celebrated the move by Austin's city council as members voted to allocate $150,000 to funding logistical support for abortion care as part of a municipal budget package on Tuesday.

"We are proud to have won this victory with both our local community and our city leaders to fund practical support for abortion in Austin," said Amanda B. Williams, the executive director of the Lilith Fund, which helps women cover the costs of abortion access.

"Things like transportation and childcare should never be barriers for Texans seeking to access abortion care. And in Austin, those barriers just got a little smaller," Williams said, adding: "We hope other local communities will be inspired to resist the attacks on abortion access and we are here to support them."

BREAKING: The budget has passed. Austin becomes the first city in the nation to fund abortion support services!

As the attacks on abortion continue, it's up to us + our local leaders to find creative solutions that ensure access for those in our community. #AbortionAccessATX

— NARAL Pro-Choice Texas (@naraltx) September 10, 2019

Austin's vote in favor of access to abortion comes as states across the country continue to introduce restrictive measures barring the procedure with few exceptions.

In Alabama, for example, legislators recently passed a near-total ban on abortions with exceptions made only for mothers whose health is seriously at risk or "if the unborn child has a lethal anomaly" and if the woman has an ectopic pregnancy.

The ramped-up effort to introduce strict anti-abortion laws comes following the controversial appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, with many anti-abortion lawmakers hoping to see the conservative judge play a key role in seeing Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion across the country, overturned.

Meanwhile, in Texas, where abortion is legal up until 20 weeks of pregnancy, access to the procedure has also become more difficult to obtain in recent years, with tighter restrictions seeing a "dramatic drop" in the number of abortion providers across the state, according to ACLU Texas.

"Here we are at Austin City Hall, a mile away from the state capitol, and yet we couldn't be farther apart on our values when it comes to expanding access to the full range of reproductive healthcare, including abortion," Austin City Council member Leslie Pool, a Democrat, said in a statement shared with Newsweek.

"It's a shame that as the years go by, more restrictive laws go into place, chipping away at Roe v. Wade and women in our community have less access to abortion care," Pool said. "This proposal will make sure that Austinites who need an abortion can access that care."

Fellow Democratic council member Greg Casar also celebrated the move, saying, on Tuesday: "Every day, anti-abortion extremists at the Texas Legislature wake up and think about how to restrict access to abortion. Today, the Austin City Council fought back and made a major investment to expand abortion access, showing the way for other cities to act."

NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Executive Director Aimee Arrambide said that while "Texas has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation," Austin has demonstrated that it is a "city that is committed to equity and ensuring that every Austinite has access to abortion."

"Over the past two decades, the anti-abortion extremists in the Texas Legislature have done their best to chip away at the right to abortion care," Arrambide said. "And, as a result, access has become virtually impossible, especially for the most marginalized. Those who don't have the resources to navigate these barriers, forgo care altogether."

Ultimately, Arrambide said: "The right to an abortion is meaningless if it is not accessible."

Pro-abortion protesters in Texas
Thousands on both sides of the abortion debate, arrive at the Texas Capitol on first day of the second called special session of the Texas Legislature on July 1st, 2013. Restrictions passed in 2013 have seen a dramatic drop in the number of abortion providers available across Texas. Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty