Reporting by Andrea Grimes.
In response to the erosion of reproductive health-care access in Texas under HB 2, which is especially affecting low-income women of color, organizations in Texas are raising money to support Texans who cannot afford to travel so they can receive abortions.
One such woman is Florence, a young woman from Africa living in Houston. Florence (not her real name) wanted to carry her pregnancy to term, but she has a life-threatening genetic disease that had complicated her pregnancy and made her extremely sick. The cost of terminating the pregnancy would place a tremendous financial burden on her. And once she became past 20 weeks of gestation, an abortion was no longer an option for her under Texas’ new abortion law.
Florence took a bus to Albuquerque, New Mexico, but the clinic there was unable to provide her with the procedure because of her health complications. Her only option was to fly to San Francisco. Sick and without money, she turned to the Lilith Fund, a Texas abortion fund.
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Lilith Fund President Amelia Long told Rewire that money was raised by her group along with Fund Texas Women and the National Abortion Federation to help Florence. “We really appreciate the support,” said Long. “People got really emotionally worked up about the story. I’m afraid that this is going to be something that happens more often than not.”
While Florence’s story is moving, Long doesn’t want “to just buy one plane ticket.” She said, “We’ve learned a lot about how abortion funding organizations and organizations that do practical support can work together on the same cases. There’s no organization that pays for the medical side and the transportation and the other logistical necessities in Texas.”
Lenzi Sheible, president of Fund Texas Women, told Rewire that Florence was the organization’s first client. The group was formed in direct response to HB 2. “It was part of an idea that came up during the whole [Wendy Davis] filibuster and rally,” said Sheible. “We realized that we needed to come up with some kind of response to this bill that was more than just wearing an orange shirt.”
Based on her experience working at Lilith Fund, Sheible knew that Lilith was not structured in such a way to be able to pay for anything other than medical procedures. “I knew that they wouldn’t be able to handle the influx of transportation unless they totally changed their model. It was easier to be a specialist in that area.”
“People who don’t live in Texas don’t realize how enormous it is,” said Sheible. “It’s a huge state, but also very poorly connected.” Sheible noted that the lack of public transportation in Texas makes accessing clinics across the state difficult for women that don’t have the financial means to travel.
“Florence is not the last emergency, and she’s also not the first,” said Sheible. “We hear these stories quite a bit, but I know that as HB 2’s effect … throughout state, that more people will call us and more people will feel too hopeless to even try and call us. A lot of people will give up on even trying to get an abortion, but there will be many more emergencies to come.”
CORRECTION: A version of this article misspelled the name of Fund Texas Women President Lenzi Sheible. It is Sheible, not Scheible. This article also incorrectly noted that “Fund Texas Women was not structured in such a way to be able to pay for anything other than medical procedures,” when in fact Lilith was not structured in that way. We regret these errors.