Austin Takes a Stand on Abortion Funding
On the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 10, the Austin City Council took a significant step for reproductive rights, approving $150,000 of the city’s latest budget to fund organizations that help low-income individuals afford abortions. Their decision was significant because it is in opposition of the state’s decision on the matter, and because Austin is the first city in the nation to approve public funding to improve public access to reproductive care for its citizens.
The amendment, a line item for the city’s latest budget, is at least in part a reaction to a recent Texas law, implemented on Sept. 1. This law banned local governments from allocating money for any services from groups that provide abortions, even if the goverment funding doesn’t go to the abortion procedure itself. The City Council collaborated with the leadership of various reproductive rights organizations, which resulted in the idea for the incidental costs amendment. The new amendment is a logical workaround for the state law, because the groups it funds don’t actually provide the abortion procedure. Instead, they focus on ensuring the low-income people seeking an abortion are not hindered by the inability to pay for incidental costs that may accrue during the process, such as transportation, childcare, housing, and more.
Specifics of which groups and nonprofits will receive aid for their services are still being determined, as are the steps for individuals seeking assistance to qualify. The amendment is primarily intended to ensure that low-income people, at least locally, can continue to obtain legal abortions despite financial obstacles.
Advocates for reproductive justice in the greater Austin area are celebrating the City Council’s decision as a major step in the right direction, especially in a climate where reproductive rights are being threatened by new legislation nationwide.
Pro-life activists continue to protest the Ciy Council’s choice on the basis of Austin violating the principle of the state law, even if it doesn’t explcitly break it. There has been some speculation that this new prioritization of reproductive justice issues may have been aided by the fact that the current City Council has a majority of female members and, as of now, at least one lawsuit attacking this allocation of funds has been filed with the city.
Whether or not the funding will be successful in keeping reproductive services financially feasible for low-income individuals remains to be seen, and critics of the City Council’s move will likely to continue their efforts to prevent the move from accomplishing its goal. However the events ultimately play out, this case is significant because of its potential as a precedent for similar legislation in other local government bodies, in Texas and farther afield.