At the beginning of this month, when Texas’ new omnibus anti-abortion law officially took effect, clinics across the state were forced to immediately halt their services. Now, the remaining clinics are struggling to accommodate a rush of new patients, many of whom may now have to travel hundreds of miles to access abortion services. One of the biggest challenges currently facing women’s health advocates in the Lone Star State is raising enough money to help all of those women pay for the transportation to the nearest clinics — an issue that isn’t new, but that has simply been exacerbated by this legislation.
Reproductive rights groups from across the country are tackling this challenge head-on, vowing that Texas women won’t be left behind. On Monday night, the New York Abortion Access Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America are teaming up to host “Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can Choose” — a star-studded online telethon intended to raise money for the abortion funds in Texas that are now stretched extremely thin. Hosted by comedians Sarah Silverman and Lizz Winstead, the event will bring together prominent celebrities, musicians, journalists, and activists.
“This extraordinary event will help pro-choice organizers and activists provide counseling, funding and even transportation to women seeking abortion care,” Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, explained in a statement about the upcoming event. “At a time when many Texas abortion clinics are facing imminent closure and women are facing cancelled appointments and seemingly nowhere to turn, we must lend a hand without delay.”
The groups are bypassing the mainstream media and posting a video feed of the event online, hoping to drum up the same kind of interest that led thousands of people across the country to turn into state Sen. Wendy Davis’ (D-TX) dramatic filibuster over the summer. Davis’ 11-hour speech — which successfully delayed a vote on the anti-abortion legislation in Texas’ GOP-controlled legislature — wasn’t broadcast on major news networks, but a swell of grassroots support helped transform it into a huge story anyway. Davis is currently running for governor.
Texas’ new abortion restrictions have captured the nation’s attention over the past several months, partly because the sheer size of the Lone Star State means there are large swaths of people who now lack resources to reproductive health care. Researchers at the University of Texas estimate that next year, more than 22,000 women could be denied a safe and legal abortion under the new law. Nonetheless, Texas is hardly the only state working to limit women’s access to abortion in this way. Across the country, a record number of abortion clinics are being forced to close under unnecessary state regulations.
The organizers of “Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can Choose” don’t want that point to be lost. “I hope that everyone watching will realize that Texas is not isolated,” Lizz Winstead pointed out in a statement provided to ThinkProgress. “People need to look at their own statehouses and see what is happening and mobilize — take action in their own back yards.”
Alison Turkos, one of the chairs for the New York Abortion Access Fund’s board of directors, explained to ThinkProgress that there’s much more work to be done to ensure that women of all income levels can access the abortion care they need. Federal and state laws restricting taxpayer funding for abortion currently prevent millions of women from using their own insurance coverage to pay for these procedures.
“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need abortion funds because everyone would have health insurance that includes abortion coverage. Unfortunately, we don’t yet live in that world,” Turkos noted. “Abortion funds are critical resources — the right to abortion is meaningless if it is impossible to afford the actual procedure.”
The telethon, which will be hosted in front of a live audience in New York City, will be streamed on Lady Parts Justice between 7:00 and 10:00 pm EST. The four organizations that will be benefiting from the donations — The Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, Texas Equal Access Fund, Whole Woman’s Health, and Fund Texas Women — will also be hosting the video feed on their own sites.
“The abortion funds in Texas have been doing this work for many years, and will continue to do so no matter what obstacles are placed in front of them,” Turkos told ThinkProgress. “There has been an incredible showing of support for the people of Texas, and we in New York wanted to show our support the best way we knew how — to raise funds to send to the people on the ground working day in and day out to help people navigate the changing landscape of abortion access.”