Anti-abortion groups sue City of San Antonio over ‘Reproductive Justice Fund’

Abortion rights advocates have pushed for the city to use the $500,000 to fund travel for out-of-state abortions

SAN ANTONIO – Anti-abortion groups have sued the City of San Antonio over its newly-created, still undefined “Reproductive Justice Fund,” which they worry could help women access out-of-state abortions.

The San Antonio City Council included the controversial $500,000 fund as part of its $3.7 billion budget but has not yet established the scope of services the fund might cover.

While the money could be used for services, such as contraceptives or reproductive health education, abortion rights advocates and some council members have also said it could also help cover travel costs for women seeking legal abortions outside of Texas.

The San Antonio Family Association and Texas Right to Life focused on that latter use in a lawsuit filed early Tuesday in Bexar County. According to a news release, the two groups are the primary plaintiffs, though dozens of other anti-abortion groups and individuals have joined on, including the Bexar County Republican Party and the San Antonio Coalition for Life.

Their legal team includes Jonathan Mitchell, who the Texas Tribune reports is best known as the architect of Texas’ ban on most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.

The lawsuit asks the court to declare the fund’s establishment in the budget invalid and that it can’t be used to fund any group “that ‘procures’ drug-induced abortions, aids or abets self-managed abortions in Texas, or aids or abets drug-induced abortions in which the pregnant woman swallows either of the two abortion-inducing drugs in Texas, or expels her unborn child in Texas.”

“The plaintiffs bring suit to enjoin the city and its officials from providing taxpayer money to any organization that pays for abortion travel or that procures elective abortions for Texas residents,” the lawsuit states.

The groups also sent a letter to an attorney, who they said represents several abortion funds, demanding the retention of records pertaining to every abortion the groups have helped facilitate since September 2021.

In an emailed statement from a city spokeswoman, San Antonio City Attorney Andy Segovia reiterated that the city has not determined how the $500,000 fund will be allocated.

“It is unfortunate taxpayer funds will be spent on defending against this lawsuit based on misinformation and false allegations. The facts are that a decision has not been made on how that money will be used,” Segovia said. “The City Council will have an open work session to discuss the use of the funds that will be managed by the City’s Metro Health Department. The funds will be distributed in accordance with State and Federal Laws.”

The so-called “Reproductive Justice Fund’s” inclusion in the city budget proved to be one of the most controversial elements of the city’s spending plan, which began Oct. 1.

District 10 Councilman Marc Whyte abstained from voting on the budget because of the fund. He called Tuesday’s lawsuit “very predictable.”

“City taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund out-of-state abortions. Abortion is not a city issue. The United States Supreme Court has pretty clearly stated this is a state issue,” Whyte said.

One of the groups that supported the creation of the fund was Jane’s Due Process, which helps teens pay for out-of-state abortions and their associated costs. Interim Executive Director Jaymie Cobb called travel expenses an “important and essential” piece of the fund, though “there are other things that folks with uteruses need reproductive funds for” such as postpartum and prenatal support, and birth control.

Cobb said the group “will see” what the city council ends up coming up with in terms of the fund’s use.

But, you know, reproductive justice is about more than abortion, and it is about abortion. So we are hopeful,” she said. “And what we’re doing is not illegal. We are helping people access to health care that they deserve to have in their home state.”

About the Author:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.