'Fund Texas Women' Offers Financial Help To Women Who Have To Travel To Obtain an Abortion

Now that legislation has officially closed all but 24 of Texas's abortion clinics — including all clinics in rural areas — activists are finding new ways to ensure that women still have access to safe, reputable clinics. A new nonprofit group, Fund Texas Women, now offers assistance to women who have to travel in order to obtain an abortion. They can provide bus tickets, both in state and out of state, and also pay for a hotel room. The group has already aided 35 women seeking abortions.

This situation is still less than ideal. Having to travel to receive an abortion means that women must also take off work, and explain their absence to everyone from friends to co-workers to nosy neighbors. Or, worse still, to potentially abusive partners; roughly 14 percent of women seeking abortions are involved in an abusive relationship, a percentage much higher than the rate for women as a whole. So trying to explain why you need to leave town for a few days could actually be dangerous for some women.

However, this system is obviously still better than nothing. Now that there is a 400-mile swath of Texas without an abortion clinic — a distance roughly as great as the entire length of Kansas — travel is the only option for many Texas women seeking abortion access, and travel often isn't an option without financial assistance.

Fund Texas Women's founder, 19-year-old Lenzi Sheible, says that the organization is not encouraging women to get abortions, and makes a point to speak with every woman who contacts them looking for help to make sure an abortion is really what she wants. “If there’s any hesitation on her end, we won’t do it,” Sheible told the Texas Tribune.

Fund Texas Women also helps women who are past the 20-week mark to travel out of state to Colorado or New Mexico for an abortion. “For people who don’t believe in abortion, what we do seems excessive,” Sheible says. “What we do seems like we are intentionally trying to get around the legislative barriers that exist, which we are.” But considering the legislative barriers are practically insurmountable for women going at it alone, it's hard to argue too much with that idea.

Sheible herself is currently seven months pregnant, and believes that access to reproductive health care, including abortion, is essential. “I can’t walk around and do this job without keeping in mind that every person’s body has its own right," she said, "and for me, being pregnant is a choice.”

However, she says that Fund Texas women is also worried about what will happen once the next provision of the infamous bill, HB2, goes into effect, requiring abortion clinics to meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers. Only six clinics in the state currently meet those standards, so the number women who need to travel to obtain an abortion will inevitably spike, and Fund Texas Women may not have the funding to keep up.

This organization is clearly a much-needed glimmer of hope in the sea of awfulness that is abortion access in Texas, but it is also clearly no substitute for clinics that can provide safe, legal abortion access to women locally. Because as wonderful as Fund Texas Women is, a system in which abortion access depends on funding from a non-profit to travel hundred of miles is a system that is too flimsy for comfort. And I imagine Fund Texas Women would be the first to agree.