Advocates ask city to help fund out-of-state trips to access legal abortion

Councilwoman gives mixed messages on purpose of “Reproductive Justice Fund,” despite championing it

SAN ANTONIOUPDATE - Corazón San Antonio CEO Erika Borrego tells KSAT her organization is not requesting funding or support for the Reproductive Justice Fund. Their group’s work is related to the “un-housed community” and not reproductive justice, she said, and she plans to look into why their logo was used on a document supporting the fund.

A coalition of groups supporting abortion rights has asked the City of San Antonio to set up a new $500,000 “Reproductive Justice Fund” that, among other things, could help cover the costs of traveling to abortion clinics in states where the procedure is legal.

The San Antonio City Council is scheduled to vote Sep. 14 on a new budget, which does not currently include such a fund. But supporters urged council members to add it as an amendment during a public budget hearing Thursday.

“You can directly support organizations that are working tirelessly to provide comprehensive reproductive and sexual health services,” said Ariana Rodriguez, the youth advocacy and community manager at Jane’s Due Process, a statewide nonprofit that helps teens travel out of Texas to get abortions.

Jane’s Due Process was one of five organizations listed on an information sheet for the proposal distributed to city council members. The other groups included Sueños Sin Fronteras, Avow, the Lilith Fund and Corazón San Antonio.

However, Corazón San Antonio CEO Erika Borrego says her group is not requesting support for the fund and she is looking into how their logo ended up being used on the information sheet.

According to the information sheet, the proposed fund would be controlled by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and “directly support community-based organizations in providing comprehensive reproductive and sexual health services, resources, and education to community members disproportionately affected by barbaric and neglectful state policies.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June 2022 paved the way for abortion to be regulated state-by-state. The procedure is illegal in Texas.

Meanwhile, a San Antonio City Councilwoman who has been supportive of the request gave mixed messages on what the fund would actually be used for.

District 5 Councilwoman Teri Castillo spoke publicly in support of the Reproductive Justice Fund proposal in an earlier budget meeting and said she has already asked city staff to include it as an amendment.

Despite her support, Castillo made no mention of the fund’s proposed use to help fund abortion seekers’ trips to legal abortion clinics in other states when KSAT asked about it after Thursday’s budget hearing. Instead, she characterized it as a fund to help purchase contraceptives and public education of reproductive health care.

Asked directly if the fund would help women “gain abortion access,” Castillo said, “No. This fund would be for reproductive education and contraceptives.”

Watch the interview below:

However, the information sheet, which KSAT obtained after the interview, states the proposed fund would support community-based organizations by “providing financial support for logistical needs such as transportation to/from abortion clinics across state lines, hotel accommodations for overnight stays necessary for abortion procedures, childcare, funds for lost wages...”

Though Castillo’s budget request, which her office supplied a copy of, does not use the same wording, it does list providing “wrap-around services for residents seeking reproductive and sexual healthcare” as an objective.

Establishing the fund, her request reads, would help the city follow through with the city council’s August 2022 resolution supporting abortion access by “providing tangible support to residents seeking reproductive and sexual healthcare.”

Asked in a second interview Thursday about the discrepancy between her previous comments and the documents, Castillo claimed it had been a misunderstanding.

“I thought you were insinuating that this would fund abortion, which is illegal in the state of Texas, which is something you cannot do,” Castillo said.

She confirmed in the second interview that “ideally, if this $500,000 Reproductive Justice Fund is successful, which I hope it is, it would allow nonprofit organizations that provide the care that you noted to access that health care.”

It’s not clear if the proposal would be legally possible for the city, given the state’s various anti-abortion laws. City Attorney Andy Segovia did not have an immediate answer when asked about it on Thursday afternoon, though he told KSAT his “preliminary we probably can’t.”

When KSAT tried to follow up later in the day, a city spokeswoman provided an emailed statement saying only “Any potential Reproductive Justice Fund supported by the City would need to be compliant with state law; as a result, we will work to ensure any program fits within the parameters of state law.”

Castillo said she understood that “for legal reasons, that may be justified,” to remove the use of any city funds for trips to out-of-state abortion clinics.

“However, overall, with the fund...acknowledging that this isn’t just for access to travel if needed, it’s also reproductive education, contraceptive education and so on and so forth...So I’m going to be sure that we’re highlighting the wide spectrum of what this fund would be used for.”

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.