Councilmembers want to speed up rollout of controversial Reproductive Justice Fund

Council approved $500K for Reproductive Justice Fund in Sep. 2023; contracts might not be awarded until 2025

SAN ANTONIO – Some San Antonio City Councilmembers are worried a city fund that, in part, could help cover the travel costs for women seeking legal, out-of-state abortions isn’t being rolled out quickly enough.

In a Tuesday afternoon briefing to city councilmembers, San Antonio Metropolitan Health District officials said the city will begin soliciting proposals to use the $500,000 Reproductive Justice Fund on Jun. 24. It plans to award up to 10 contracts, worth at least $50,000 each.

However, according to a timeline staff shared, it could take until February 2025 before those contracts are ready for council approval, and until spring 2025 before they begin. Councilmembers approved the new fund in September 2023 as part of the FY 2024 budget - nine months ago already.

San Antonio city council members want the timeline for awarding contracts out of the Reproductive Justice Fund to be shortened.

District 1 Councilwoman Sukh Kaur said council members expect to see money spent in the same budget year, which runs October through September for the city.

“So it’s frustrating to see an issue that’s so important feel like it gets dragged out,” Kaur said.

City Manager Erik Walsh suggested Metro Health was being “really, really conservative” with the possible timeline and said it could move up, depending on what the city receives for bids. He also said the gap between a council briefing in November after the bids come back and the contract approval vote in February could end up being much shorter.

Walsh noted that Metro Health officials anticipated getting feedback from the council at the November briefing, “but barring any additional feedback, it could go to council right after the post solicitation.”

It has already taken the city most of the budget year to figure out how to spend the money.

The possibility of tapping the fund to help with abortion access has drawn the most attention, though supporters are quick to note it’s not the only use. Contraception, home pregnancy tests, doula training scholarships, and even tackling food insecurity are among the other needs being considered.

Metro Health has proposed splitting the $500,000 fund between what it called “upstream, midstream, and downstream” needs.

“Transportation to abortion care” is one of eight possible needs in the “downstream” category, which also includes transportation to prenatal care, telehealth visits for sexually transmitted infections, and emergency contraception.

Metro Health had originally suggested spending $100,000 on that category but bumped it to $200,000 after feedback from council members in April.

Metro Health Medical Director Dr. Junda Woo said the fund would only cover travel costs.

“And as long as it is still allowed by law,” she told reporters. “And our attorneys are constantly monitoring to make sure that it’s still allowed by law.”

The fund has prompted strong opinions, even on the council.

“Those who would say that abortion care is not women’s health care are just wrong,” said District 6 Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda, who is expected to run for mayor in 2025.

Meanwhile, District 10 Councilman Marc Whyte, refused to vote on the budget because of the Reproductive Justice Fund’s inclusion.

“I’m happy to spend more on women’s health issues, but on funding out-of-state abortion, that is simply wrong,” Whyte said Thursday.

His fellow North Side councilmen, Manny Pelaez (D8) and John Courage (D9) - both of whom are running for mayor - also spoke against using city money to help with travel costs.

It’s unclear what the fund’s future will be beyond the current allotment. Walsh said the staff did not plan to include it in their draft budget to the city council in August.


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, with only narrow exceptions.

Just over a month later, the San Antonio City Council passed a non-binding resolution supporting abortion access in a 9-2 vote. Eight of those council members remain on the dais, while Kaur, Gavito, and Whyte were all elected later.

Leading up to the vote on the FY 2024 budget in September 2023, groups supporting abortion rights urged council members to include what they called a “Reproductive Justice Fund.” An informational flyer from the groups laid out several uses for the fund, including free contraception, diapers, infant care items, and doula support.

It also proposed helping cover the logistical costs - like travel and hotels - for women seeking abortions at clinics across state lines.

Ultimately, the council included money for the Reproductive Justice Fund in the budget but did not set rules for how to spend it. Still, the expectation the new fund would be used to help women access legal abortions outside Texas sparked debate among council members and even a lawsuit from anti-abortion groups.

A District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit in April after the city argued that nothing had actually been spent yet. The groups quickly appealed the decision to the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals.

About the Authors

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.

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