Youth Activists in Texas Fight Back Against Assault on Abortion Access

“Abortion should be available and accessible and safe to everybody. … We’re going to continue to do the work that we can, in the capacity that we can, and divert individuals for referrals outside of state if we need to.” 

—Kat, a member of Buckle Bunnies Abortion Fund in Texas

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Outside the Supreme Court after the decision on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a June 2016 Texas abortion case. (Adam Fagen / Flickr)

The state of Texas is currently a COVID-19 hotspot: The number of Texans under 50 being admitted to hospitals is larger than at any point during the pandemic; the number of available ICU beds has reached a new low; and the state has resorted to bringing 8,100 new health care workers in from other states to alleviate pressure on Texas hospital workers who say they’re “at a breaking point.” But Texas lawmakers seem more focused on a different public health catastrophe: banning abortion.

On August 10, the Texas Senate passed S.B. 4—authored by anti-abortion Democrat Eddie Lucio and supported by Gov. Greg Abbott—which bans medication abortion after seven weeks. While telemedicine abortion has been available for years, its current accessibility is particularly important as a highly contagious pandemic surges through the state—since it’s proven to be a safe, effective and popular way to procure an abortion. S.B. 4 awaits a vote in the Texas House before it becomes law.

This bill follows S.B. 8, which was upheld by a federal court in August and, pending court intervention, will take effect on Wednesday, September 1. The bill bans abortion at approximately six weeks and awards $10,000 to anyone who sues individuals who “aid and abet” a pregnant person seeking abortion care. According to Elizabeth Nash and Lauren Cross of the Guttmacher Institute, the law “incentivizes anti-abortion vigilantes to act as de facto bounty hunters and bury abortion providers in frivolous lawsuits.”

“If this law is not blocked by September 1, abortion access in Texas will come to an abrupt stop,” said Marc Hearron, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights in a statement.

In response to coordinated attacks on abortion in Texas, youth activists are fighting back—like Kat, a member of the Buckle Bunnies Fund, a queer- and youth-led mutual aid abortion fund.

“It’s really overwhelming to get an abortion in Texas,” Kat, 23, told Ms. “A lot of organizers here in Texas, myself included, want to ensure that people still get access to the care that they need, regardless if it’s during a pandemic or not, and especially in Texas. We’re here to assist with anything that they need, and help people access abortion safely and effectively.”

Started in April of 2020 in response to Abbott’s decision to temporarily ban abortions in Texas during COVID, the Buckle Bunnies Fund is made up largely of queer youth, many of whom have worked or currently work in the sex industry—such as its founder, 22-year-old Makayla Montoya-Frazier, who began her work in the space providing harm reduction resources for fellow sex workers. The support and resources Buckle Bunnies and other abortion funds provide are integral to making Texas, a state with a long history of abortion restrictions, a little more supportive.

“[Buckle Bunnies] has helped me work through a lot of my own personal experience as someone [who] had an abortion when I was 19, my sophomore year in college, and I didn’t talk about it before with anybody because I felt like so much guilt,” Kat said. “I was able to [make these] new connections [with] friends to become outspoken about my own experience about abortion, and how I think that that could be fixed to help people have better experiences, and how we just need to be more open about talking people experiences with abortion [and] letting people feel their trauma or happiness that the abortion brought to them.”

With the new potential legislation poised to take effect, Buckle Bunnies continues to fundraise to support individuals in need of abortions.

The fund is also working on new approaches to countering abortion restrictions, says Kat. “At this time, we’re going to be launching a campaign for our supporters, and anyone that’s interested and in support of other organizations, to basically spam the whistleblower website that was created by” Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group. 

However, even if the restrictive laws take effect, Buckle Bunnies is going to continue.

“I don’t think anything really will change operationally,” Kat told Ms. “We’re just going to continue to do the work that we can, in the capacity that we can, and divert individuals for referrals outside of state if we need to.” 

Other youth-led activist organizations, including Youth Womxn of Color for Reproductive Justice Leadership Council and West Fund, similarly believe in mobilizing youth to fight abortion restrictions in Texas. 

Young Womxn of Color for Reproductive Justice Leadership Council is made up of individuals ranging from 14 to 24 years of age who train and develop young leaders of color in reproductive justice, educate communities on sexual health and reproductive rights, and mobilize campaigns to fight reproductive injustice.

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The Young Womxn of Color for Reproductive Justice Collective is a collective of 14- to 24-year-old activists working towards ensuring reproductive freedom for all people. (Advocates for Youth)


Similarly, West Fund—founded by University of Texas at El Paso students in 2013 in response to an anti-abortion law H.B. 2—provides resources, grants, programming, paid internships, professional development and more to create statewide action in support of reproductive rights.

Youth organizing is key to challenging the harmful restrictions in Texas and elsewhere, since across the U.S., 2021 is already the worst legislative year ever for abortion rights.

“Our goal at the end of the day is to continue doing this work and to set new standards, questions and practices,” said Kat.

Take Action

For more information about how to support youth-led activists, visit Buckle Bunnies Fund’s website, West Fund’s website or Youth Womxn of Color for Reproductive Justice Leadership Council’s website. Other funds that could use donations are listed here.

You can also join a September 1 protest against Texas abortion restrictions. Join an existing in-person protest, host your own or participate virtually.

Austin 

South Steps of Texas Capitol at noon CT

1100 Congress Ave, Austin, 78701

The protest at the Capitol will be live streamed on the Progress Texas Facebook page and the Ms. Facebook page.

Houston

Tranquility Park at noon CT

400 Rusk St, Houston, 77002

Edinburg

Edinburg City Hall at 5:30 p.m. CT

415 W. University Dr, Edinburg, 78539

San Antonio

San Pedro Springs Park at 7 p.m. CT

2200 N. Flores, San Antonio, 78212 

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About

Juliet Schulman-Hall is an editorial fellow for Ms. and a rising senior at Smith College. She is majoring in English language & literature, minoring in sociology, and concentrating in poetry. Her beats include caregiving, mental health and disability advocacy, and criminal justice reform and abolition. Follow her @jschulmanhall