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Texas abortion funds shielded from criminal prosecution after federal ruling

Numerous abortion funds collectively sued Attorney General Ken Paxton in August to protect the ability to financially help Texans seek abortions across the nation.

SAN ANTONIO — Texas abortion funds are now legally protected from criminal penalties if the nonprofits pay for patients’ abortion-related expenses in other states.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman ruled in favor of abortion funds and medical providers Feb. 24 by prohibiting Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from enforcing Texas’ abortion ban beyond state lines.

The granted temporary injunction serves as a victory for pro-abortion advocates who filed a lawsuit against Paxton and a handful of district attorneys shortly after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022. 

Jane’s Due Process is among the plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit that’s halted financial services for pregnant Texans seeking abortion care in other states. The non-profit serves primarily teenagers, one of the most marginalized populations as it relates to securing abortion access.

“They often lack resources. It’s a lot harder for them to travel,” said Nan Kirkpatrick, director of external affairs at Jane’s Due Process. 

Jane’s Due Process’ legal counsel is reviewing the legal implications of the judge’s ruling before resuming providing financial assistance for abortion care. 

“We definitely feel like this ruling is a big win for Texans who might need to travel for abortion access, and it opens the door for Texas abortion funds like Jane’s Due Process to resume helping people travel for care,” Kirkpatrick said.

Texans have lived in a post-Roe world since Senate Bill 8 became law, which bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. There are no exceptions for incest or rape. The sole exception for an abortion is if the mother’s life is at risk. 

Texans with the time and financial means have sought care in neighboring states like New Mexico or even across the country, as far as Washington state. 

Trust Women Foundation offers reproductive healthcare at clinics in Oklahoma and Kansas. Patients are being redirected to the clinic in Wichita, Kan. since abortion is banned in nearly all cases in Oklahoma.

Trust Women Communications Manager Zachary Gingrich-Gaylord stressed there’s rising demand from patients hoping to receive an abortion. As a result, the non-profit has tripled its staff but there are challenges when it comes to accommodating everyone. Appointments are often scheduled at least two weeks out.  

Trust Women is seeing 500 patients each month. About 60% of patients being admitted at the Wichita clinics are from Texas, according to Gingrich-Gaylord. 

“Financial pressures, planning for travel, time off work. None of those things have anything to do with the actual provision of that medical care. We’re glad that this ruling appears to open up again that option for funds to help support patients to get the care that they need,” he said. 

Elizabeth Myers, an attorney representing the abortion funds and medical provider stated: “Under this ruling, no state official can enforce the Trigger Ban against anyone who helps a Texan obtain an abortion out of state where abortion care is legal.”

The judge's ruling also shields plaintiffs from penalties under pre-Roe laws. 

The plaintiffs in the case are Fund Texas Choice, Texas Equal Access (TEA) Fund, Frontera Fund, The Afiya Center, West Fund, Jane’s Due Process, Clinic Access Support Network, Lilith Fund and Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi.

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