NOEL KING, HOST:
Austin, Texas, has found a way to push back against state laws that restrict abortion. City leaders have set aside public money to help women who plan to get abortions pay for related costs, like a hotel room or ride to their appointment, or even a babysitter. Here's Ashley Lopez of member station KUT in Austin.
ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: Earlier this year, the Texas legislature banned all local governments from giving any money to clinics that provide abortions. Texas has been steadily clawing back access to abortions for the past decade so abortion rights advocates and city leaders in Austin decided to find another way to help women. Austin can't give money to abortion providers. So instead, the city will give $150,000 to groups that might be called abortion adjacent. Erika Galindo, an organizer with the Lilith Fund, pushed for the money at a council meeting.
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ERIKA GALINDO: The city of Austin has an opportunity to set a new standard for creative and equitable solutions for our communities at a time when state lawmakers and local governments, like Waskom City Council, have turned their backs again and again.
A LOPEZ: She's referring to Waskom, a city in East Texas that recently passed a law totally outlawing abortion. Councilwoman Delia Garza represents a mostly low-income area of Austin. She says it was time to step in.
DELIA GARZA: We've seen how it's been - this right has been chipped away at, you know, from waiting periods, to sonogram bills to, you know, all kinds of barriers being placed in front of women.
A LOPEZ: Texas law requires at least two visits to get an abortion. So the public funds would pay for logistical support services for low-income women, like bus rides, counseling or even hotel rooms for women to recuperate. Advocates say it's a tidy workaround to the state's ban. Sarah Lopez is with Fund Texas Choice.
SARAH LOPEZ: I was even chatting with someone yesterday. She had just made her appointment but then, like, rescheduled because she was like, I didn't realize I would have to be gone for three or four days so, like, I had to push my appointment another week and a half in order to find child care.
A LOPEZ: The funding for these services was added to the city budget with relatively little drama.
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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Does anybody object to that going into the base budget at this point? Ms. Flanagan (ph) objects. Others, no. So it's going to go in.
A LOPEZ: Not everyone thinks this is legal. A lawsuit has already been filed to stop the funding, claiming the city is disregarding the new state law. John C. with Texas Right to Life says he actually thinks Austin is technically within the law, but he says the city is clearly violating the principle behind it.
JOHN SEGO: The legislature does not believe that it's ethical to use taxpayer dollars to benefit the abortion industry. So whether it's the clinic itself, whether it's paying for the procedure itself, there is an industry built around that that we don't want to use taxpayer dollars to benefit.
A LOPEZ: The new funds are only available for women who live in Austin. Sarah Lopez with Fund Texas Choice says women in rural parts of the state still struggle because they're often hundreds of miles away from the closest clinic.
S LOPEZ: I really hope to see that, like, other cities in Texas kind of follow suit.
A LOPEZ: The money will be available in Austin starting October 1. For NPR News, I'm Ashley Lopez in Austin.
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