Government

Abortion Funds In Texas Are Sending Women Out of State for Care

By Any Means is a series about people who are working around the system to make change happen.

Working at an abortion fund in Texas right now is overwhelming, to say the very least. Since Senate Bill 8 passed in September, effectively banning the procedure in the state, thousands of women have been denied access to the procedure. And conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court appear poised to overturn the right to abortion secured by Roe v. Wade in a case that will be decided this spring. But Jess Hale, the 24 year old advocacy fellow for the Texas Equal Action Fund (TEA Fund), tries to find moments of light where she can.

“Aside from my advocacy work, I help run TEA Fund’s TikTok,” they tell Teen Vogue. “Honestly, I’m really proud of it. It gets kind of funny sometimes with how the trends turn out.”

Hale, who is graduating from the University of Texas at Tyler this semester, helps TEA Fund with their efforts to advocate for local and state laws that expand abortion access. The fund’s primary work is to provide financial assistance and support for “people who need abortions but can’t afford them,” she says. The organization operates in 110 of the state’s 254 counties across northeast and West Texas, providing services including text message-based support for people in the process of getting an abortion and a peer support meeting group for those who have had the procedure.

Hale says SB8 has made their work more challenging than it already was. But they tell Teen Vogue that they’ll remain committed to providing emotional and financial support for pregnant people seeking abortion access — no matter what.

Editor’s note: This conversation has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Teen Vogue: So how did you get into this work?

Jess Hale: I first got involved with the Texas Equal Access Fund when I was 21. An ordinance passed in my hometown of Waskom, Texas that essentially tries to ban abortion just within city limits, but it’s written in such a way that it’s very confusing and its hard to tell the boundaries of the ordinance itself. Waskom is a very small, rural East Texas town — we have about 1,600 people out there — so an ordinance like this was mainly just designed to stigmatize abortion because Waskom doesnt even have an abortion clinic. It was made to divide the community. So I started organizing around these city ordinances, and I was reached out to by a couple of funds, and they ended up connecting me to TEA Fund.

TV: What has changed with your work since the passage of SB8? How has it become harder or more complicated?

JH: Three-quarters of our callers have had to seek care in other states to meet this growing need. We’ve worked to support people by increasing our funding for abortion — how much we’re able to give people whenever they call us. But with an influx of Texans traveling out of state to receive their care, it’s caused an undue burden on other states and increased waiting times for people. So it’s not only affecting Texans but our neighboring states as well, and it’s pushing abortion further out of reach for them because they have increasing wait times. Most of the people we serve go to neighboring states like Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas, Louisiana or Colorado. But some of our callers had to go as far as Baltimore.

And you have to consider travel costs, not just in terms of the cost of gas or a plane ride. But if that person has a child already they have to get childcare; they have to be able to pay their bills for the time they’re missing out of work. They have to be able to take off from work in the first place, and then food, hotel — it gets very expensive.

TV: How do you see your work in relation to electoral politics? Is it something you’ll find a way to continue doing no matter what lawmakers in the Texas statehouse decide or if SCOTUS does effectively overturn Roe?

JH: No matter what happens, for me personally, I will still be trying to advocate for abortion access. …I’m still going to be unapologetically pro-abortion and advocating in my area of Texas about how important abortion access truly is.

TV: Can you describe a typical day at work?

JH: Most of what I do is connecting with east Texans. Most recently, I tabled an event here in my town; I connected with other east Texans who have the same mindset that abortion is healthcare and abortion should be accessible to all people. Most of the time, whenever I tell people about what I do, they either just close their conversation, or, people who have had abortions will open up to me about their experience. And the majority of what I’ve heard from people is that their abortion saved their lives. It gave them the life they want to have and also the life they need in order to support the families they already have.

Aside from my advocacy work, I help run TEA Fund’s TikTok. So what I do is look at the trends that are happening across TikTok and I make it fit TEA Fund, right? But I don’t just talk about the Texas Equal Access Fund. I talk about crisis pregnancy centers and how theyre harmful to people, I talk about how expensive abortion access can be, and the fact that just because abortion is legal doesnt mean its accessible to people. Because even before SB8, people could have abortions up to a certain point, but at the same time, the majority of Texans had to travel for hours just to get care either in Dallas, Houston, Austin. And theres also the costs of abortion — it’s such an expensive procedure for people.

TV: Are there any common threads among the clients you see?

JH: I believe that half the people we fund are already parents. And the majority of the people we fund are black, Indigenous, people of color.

[As for age,] I would say it’s all around. You have to consider that half of the people we fund are already parents but at the same time from my personal experience when I was working on the call lines, there were young people — like teenagers — calling us and there were people in their 30s.

TV: What is the hardest part of your job?

JH: There is an emotional toll. We’re having to fight back against decades of stigmatization of abortion. Youll have people who will say really outright terrible things about abortion when you see it in a completely different light. I definitely think that no matter what happens with SCOTUS we’ll still have a community, we’ll still have these connections and be able to advocate for abortion access. So that gives me hope for sure.

Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: What Is the Supreme Court’s Shadow Docket?

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