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In the face of statewide abortion ban, Council affirms support for reproductive rights

Friday, October 1, 2021 by Jackie Ibarra

In 2019, the city of Austin made headlines for being one of the first cities in the nation to allocate funds to help women access abortions. Now, with the recent passage of Texas’ Senate Bill 8, the most restrictive abortion ban in the country, City Council has approved a resolution calling for continued support for reproductive rights in Austin.

Council approved the item Thursday in a 10-1 vote, with Council Member Mackenzie Kelly voting in opposition.

“It not only holds that the City Council believes in a person’s right to choose,” Council Member Paige Ellis said of the resolution. “But we also stand with our local delegation who have been fighting really hard against SB 8.” 

The resolution calls for the city’s legal department to provide “amicus support” to lawsuits challenging SB 8. 

While the city won’t necessarily be directly involved in lawsuits as a party or a plaintiff, Ellis said the city can still “provide legal background support and information for that lawsuit.” 

“It’s called amicus because it’s done in a friendly manner to support one of the people in the lawsuit,” Ellis told the Austin Monitor.   

For the past two years, the city has allocated about $500,000 to Austin-based groups working on the logistical side of providing abortions.

“We as a city are not able to provide any financial support for abortion services itself,” Ellis explained. “But there has been an ability to at least assist with some of the burdens and regulations and obstacles that are put in the way of people who are trying to access abortions, like lodging, transportation and things of that nature.”

Because of the Hyde Amendment, the federal government cannot fund abortion. In addition, state law constrains health plans from covering abortions.

In an email to the Monitor, Council Member Greg Casar’s office said the support the city provides includes transportation to and from clinics, hotel accommodations for overnight stays necessary for abortion procedures, and child care support or reimbursements.

Accommodations for lost wages are available, including direct financial assistance to patients who forgo wages or are denied paid sick days to obtain abortion care. 

Post-abortion support includes overhead and administrative costs for organizations whose staff provide post-abortion counseling  services. 

Finally, the resolution encourages private businesses to join the city in opposing SB 8.

“People should think a lot about their favorite restaurants, their favorite grocery stores, their banks, anyone who you know who is employing people in the state of Texas, and to ask them to stand with us in opposition to SB 8,” Ellis said. 

Ellis said they saw examples of businesses opposing the state Legislature when GOP lawmakers were “chipping away at voting rights” and said it’s time for businesses to do the same with the abortion ban. 

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

This story was written by a journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin. The Austin Monitor is working in partnership with the UT School of Journalism to publish stories produced by students in the City and County Government Reporting course.

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