The Texas city of Austin has become the first in the nation to approve funding for abortion access services, abortion advocates said this week.
The city council approved $150,000 in its 2020 budget to help cover transportation, lodging and child care for women seeking abortions. The move made Tuesday faces a lawsuit and follows a new state law banning cities from paying for abortions.
Austin Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza said the funding can break down barriers to abortion in the wake of state and federal restrictions, such as the Trump administration rule that bans clinics from referring women for abortions. This month in Texas, Senate Bill 22 began to bar contracts between abortion providers and government entities.
“I don’t make decisions based on what the legislature wants, I make decisions based on what our community needs," Garza said Tuesday, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
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Former councilmember Don Zimmerman filed a lawsuit to block the spending the next day, the newspaper reported, arguing it violates a 1961 state law making it a crime to help someone get an abortion. The Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalized the procedure 12 years after passage of that statute.
The author of Senate Bill 22, Republican Sen. Donna Campbell is also considering challenging Austin's support services funding through the Texas Attorney General’s office. In a statement, Campbell said she wasn't surprised the city “would manipulate the law (SB 22) to use taxpayer dollars to pay for transportation and lodging to those seeking an abortion.”
Sarah Lopez, a program coordinator for Fund Texas Choice, applauded Austin's move, noting it makes the capital of Texas the first U.S. city to provide practical, logistical support funding toward accessing abortion. In June, New York City became the first to directly fund abortions.
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No hearings have been scheduled for the lawsuit against Austin's funding, which does not cover abortion procedure expenses, the American-Statesman reported.
“They are always trying to put more money behind their ideological preferences,” Zimmerman told the newspaper. “The progressives are always trying to make taxpayers pay for their progressive ideologies.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Austin becomes first US city to fund abortion access services