AUSTIN (KXAN) — Emma looks forward to motherhood one day.
“But doing so in the proper context where my body is prepared for that,” she said.
When she found out she was pregnant in February, she was on medication that could harm a fetus. It’s why she had also been taking birth control.
She said she called Planned Parenthood, but it said she’d likely be at, or past, the six-week mark by the time an appointment would be available. Texas law had already banned abortions after that point.
Emma, who lives in Central Texas, didn’t have time to travel out of state for the procedure, so she found someone to get her abortion pills.
“But in order to even access those … not wanting to get them in a legally precarious situation either, [I] provided them very little information as to who they were for, what they were for,” she said.
It took Emma two rounds of those pills to have a successful abortion. She said she was able to connect with a medical professional via an anonymous tip line to guide her through the process. But she never had an accurate age of her fetus, because she never got an ultrasound.
“I attribute the unsuccessful original abortion medication to the fact that … I couldn’t comfortably access … an ultrasound service at the time … under the current restrictions in Texas, feeling like I was going to possibly face criminalization,” she said.
It’s a situation Austin City Council wants to avoid for other women. The council approved funding access to abortion in 2019.
“Those funds helped to fund transportation or child care, travel, so that people who were unable to get abortions would be able to get the health care that they require,” said Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter, who was on the dais at the time.
According to Austin Public Health, council approved $150,000 for the fund in FY20, $100,000 for FY21 and $150,000 in FY22.
The money is distributed to third-party organizations who offer those services.
Critics said the city should fund pregnancy support programs, instead. Austin Mayor Steve Adler said they do both.
“We’ve done a lot over the last several years to try to support families with rental assistance, with supportive payments and social payments, with support for health access and medical treatments,” he said. “So, we don’t take action in one area to the exclusion of other areas.”
The Supreme Court’s decision Friday to strike down Roe v. Wade puts that pot of money in limbo.
“You know, we’re talking to the lawyers about that now,” Adler said.
Roe required that states allow abortion at some time up to the point of fetal viability, around 24 weeks. In 1992, a decision on Planned Parenthood v. Casey cemented Roe’s holding.
Texas’ trigger law now also comes into play, making most abortions illegal with a few exceptions. The law would go into effect in about 30 days after an official SCOTUS judgement. The state law would only allow abortions if it was necessary to save the life of the pregnant person or if there was a risk of serious impairment because of the pregnancy.
“The Austin City Council has consistently supported the rights of women to make choices over their own bodies, reproductive health, and family planning. The City is prepared to take the steps necessary to implement any further resolutions passed by Council to protect these rights,” the city said in a statement to KXAN.
“We will take steps that we can legally take to help our community in this challenging time,” council member Alter said.
Adler said they’re already planning a meeting with actionable items.
“There could be a special-called meeting of the City Council in July, and I think that’ll be the time to really discuss all of these things,” Adler said.
Pushing for the GRACE Act
Council Member José “Chito” Vela posted to the City of Austin Council Message Board shortly after the SCOTUS ruling, calling for a special meeting “as soon as possible.”
He said he and council member Vanessa Fuentes want to pass the GRACE Act: Guarding the Right to Abortion Care for Everyone. Vela said the policy recommendation would do three main things:
- Ban using city funds to collect or report evidence related to abortion.
- Direct city manager to make abortion the lowest priority for criminal investigation and enforcement.
- Protections would apply to abortions that are not forced, “or criminally negligent to the health of the pregnant person seeking care,” or abortions that are part of evidence of another crime and “are being investigated specifically for that purpose.”
“I welcome any of my colleagues who wish to co-sponsor the GRACE Act, and I hope our city can be a source of grace to those who will be targeted for making what should be a private medical decision,” Vela wrote in his post, adding he looks forward to a special-called meeting this month.
If passed, the GRACE Act would only be recommendations, because city council cannot tell employees how to deal with a criminal case under Texas law and the Austin City Charter, according to a Q&A document Vela posted.
City executives, under the authority of the city manager, would have to decide whether or not to implement the recommendations and how.
City council members passed another measure banning reproductive discrimination last week. However, the office in charge of crafting an ordinance has requested more time to flesh out any legal problems.