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Texas Abortion Funds Push to Keep Supporting Patients as State AG Vows to Prosecute Advocates

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Is raising money to send pregnant people to another state to get an abortion aiding and abetting? We speak to Kamyon Conner, executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, the first Black woman to head the organization, about how Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has threatened to prosecute anyone violating a statewide abortion ban that was passed in the 1920s and never repealed. Lawmakers are also introducing bills to restrict FDA-approved abortion pills delivered through the mail. This heavily policed environment has placed pro-abortion organizations on high alert even as their work becomes more in demand. “Our abortion fund specifically is on the radar of anti-abortion extremists and our conservative elected officials,” says Conner.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we turn to look at the ongoing fallout from the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate constitutional protections for abortion.

Legal battles are being waged across the United States as reproductive rights advocates attempt to halt or delay statewide abortion bans. On Monday, judges temporarily blocked Louisiana and Utah from implementing bans. Meanwhile, abortion rights advocates have also filed lawsuits across the country, including in Arizona, Kentucky, Idaho, Mississippi and Texas.

Within hours of Friday’s ruling, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton threatened to criminally prosecute anyone violating a statewide abortion ban that was passed in the 1920s, a century ago, and never repealed. While the American Civil Liberties Union is suing Paxton, health clinics in Texas have stopped providing abortions. Abortion funds in Texas have also temporarily halted services.

We’re joined now by Kamyon Conner, executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, the first Black woman to head the fund.

We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Kamyon. Can you explain what an abortion fund did before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and what you’re doing now?

KAMYON CONNER: Yes. Thank you so much, Amy and Juan, for having me on.

I want to share that there are 10 abortion funds in the state of Texas, and we do a couple of different things. Our abortion fund, the TEA Fund, helps people pay for their abortions in Texas, which costs anywhere from $500 or more. That is because there’s no insurance coverage of abortion in our state. Other abortion funds also do practical or logistical support, basically helping someone travel to wherever they need to go within the state, previously, or with — outside of the state, as well. That includes like bus passes, plane tickets, meal vouchers, Ubers from your airport to where you’re staying, and hotel stays.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Kamyon, I wanted to ask you, in terms of advances in medical treatments, such as telemedicine, what legally is going to — what do you foresee happening now if someone in Texas does a telemedicine consultation with a doctor outside of the state in terms of dealing with information and consultation on abortion? What would be the legal situation there?

KAMYON CONNER: I will share with you that our state has already, through the Legislature, made it a criminal act for folks to provide telemedicine for abortion care. So, we have tried, year after year, or every two years, to fight them on this, because it would really support people who need access to abortion, especially medication abortion. But it is not something that folks in our state or physicians in our state are allowed to do when it comes to abortion.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That’s physicians in Texas, right? But what if it’s a physician in Oklahoma or Arkansas —

KAMYON CONNER: I think determination —

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — or, let’s say, a state that does not ban abortion?

KAMYON CONNER: Yeah, I was going to say I think that determining that is still a huge question. We have seen that our attorney general is targeting abortion funds and folks that help folks seek care in other states. So, I am not sure if physicians and clinics in other states would possibly be prosecuted for that type of act, but I know that that is something that folks are seeking clarity on from the judicial system at this time.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, it’s amazing to think, in the past, people from Mexico came to the United States, if they had the means, to get an abortion. Now the idea that people would be going from the United States to Mexico or to New Mexico or to Colorado. But are you concerned with your fund about providing money for people to go other places? Are you concerned about the state prosecuting you, Kamyon?

KAMYON CONNER: I am extremely concerned. I know for a fact, for myself, that our abortion fund specifically is on the radar of anti-abortion extremists and our conservative elected officials. We have received cease-and-desist letters about our work, tweets saying that they will target us for felony penalties for continuing our work. Our attorney general basically let folks know the day that Roe fell that, “DAs, everyone, right now you can start prosecuting. Go right ahead.” So we have chosen to pause and seek clarity from the judicial system about what our parameters of work could be.

I’m sure you all know that because of Senate Bill 8, we have been primarily helping Texans get abortion care outside of the state of Texas since September 1st, when previously only maybe 30% of our callers had to leave the state, likely because there’s a 20-week ban in Texas, but now 90% of the folks that we have been helping have been leaving the state to access care. And that is something that should be protected and people should be able to freely travel to do. But I also want to share that being forced to travel for your healthcare, specifically abortion, is no way for people to access care. It’s harmful, it’s dangerous, and it increases the stigma of abortion.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Kamyon, we’ve also heard a lot now of the increasing demand for prescription medication for abortions. How will the Texas ban affect the distribution of prescription medication?

KAMYON CONNER: So, in December 1st of 2021, Senate Bill 4 went into effect. It arbitrarily bans medication abortion after 49 days’ gestation, which is seven weeks. Now, previously, folks in Texas could access abortion care up to 11 weeks with the medication abortion. It also bans mailing of medication abortion drugs and creates medically unnecessary reporting requirements for abortion providers, including that they would have to follow someone’s subsequent pregnancies and their pregnancy complications for pregnancies after the abortion that they have with the medication abortion pill. Violation of this state law is a felony for any person who violates any part of the law.

So, our Legislature made it really apparent that they knew banning abortion at six weeks in Texas would cause a lot of Texans, presumably Black and Brown, Indigenous folks, to have to seek medication abortion or a self-managed abortion. So they passed Senate Bill 4 to make it harder for folks to do that, and especially make it a felony offense for them to receive these kind of medications through the mail.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, it might surprise people to know that half the abortions in the United States are medication abortions. We’re going to talk more about these abortions by this pill regimen later in the week. But both the head of HHS, Xavier Becerra, as well as the attorney general, Merrick Garland, have reaffirmed that they have been approved by the FDA and they are legal. Kamyon Conner, I want to thank you so much for being with us, executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, the TEA Fund, the first African American woman to head the TEA Fund.

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