By Eleanor Klibanoff, The Texas Tribune
“Anti-abortion groups sue San Antonio over “reproductive justice fund”” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
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The city of San Antonio is facing a lawsuit after budgeting $500,000 to support reproductive health services, including, potentially, transportation and lodging for people seeking abortions outside Texas.
A group of anti-abortion organizations filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Bexar County, asking a state district judge to prohibit taxpayer dollars from going to organizations that help Texans travel out of the state for abortion.
Last month, City Council members approved a $3.7 billion budget, San Antonio’s largest, which included half a million dollars to establish a “reproductive justice fund.” The city has not yet said how that money will be spent; during City Council hearings, advocates talked mostly about using it to support health education, access to emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
But some City Council members said they would like to see the money used to support nonprofit groups that help Texans travel to other states to get abortions.
“We need to discuss the opportunities we have to make an impact legally,” council member Jalen McKee-Rodriguez told television station KSAT in September. “As far as we can go, I want to go there, of course, within the confines of state law.”
The lawsuit claims that providing taxpayer dollars to these organizations violates the law, even if the funds aren’t used to directly pay for out-of-state abortions.
“Any such grant aids and abets their criminal activities by freeing up money and resources for their ‘procurement’ of drug-induced abortions,” the lawsuit said.
City Attorney Andy Segovia rejected the premise of the lawsuit, saying it was “based on misinformation and false allegations.”
“A decision has not been made on how that money will be used,” Segovia said in a statement. “The City Council will have an open work session to discuss the use of the funds that will be managed by the City’s Metro Health Department. The funds will be distributed in accordance with state and federal laws.”
This court filing is the latest front in an ongoing war between abortion funds and anti-abortion groups, led by conservative attorney Jonathan Mitchell. Mitchell, who filed Tuesday’s suit, is best known as the architect of Texas’ ban on most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.
Even before the overturn of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, Mitchell had abortion funds in his sights. He has made numerous attempts to shut down their services, including a recent filing asking a judge to require the nonprofit groups to turn over their patient and donor information.
As part of this lawsuit, Mitchell sent litigation-hold letters to the funds, requiring them to retain documentation of any and all abortions they helped pay for since Sept. 1, 2021.
The lawsuit claims abortion funds are “criminal organizations” that violate the state’s abortion bans by helping people in Texas to travel out of state.
“It is a criminal offense to engage in conduct in Texas that ‘procures’ a drug-induced abortion — even when the abortion is performed out of state — so long as the procuring conduct occurs within the state of Texas,” the lawsuit said.
The threat of criminal prosecution led many of Texas’ abortion funds to stop paying for travel and procedures after the overturn of Roe v. Wade. But they resumed their work in February, after a federal judge ruled that they were likely safe from criminal prosecution.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/10/17/san-antonio-abortion-funds/.
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