‘We Will Win’: Texas Abortion Funds Use Reproductive Justice to Guide Their Grassroots Activism

In one of the harshest abortion landscapes in the U.S., abortion funds work together to help abortion seekers navigate the network of laws and raise their families safely.

A reproductive rights rally in Brooklyn on Sept. 1, 2021, protests Texas SB 8, the six-week ban with a “bounty hunter” provision. At the time, it was considered the most restrictive abortion ban to ever take effect in the U.S. post-Roe. (Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images)

Abortion funds are local nonprofits that provide abortion seekers with monetary support. While they are designed to pay for a patient’s abortion, funds also increasingly help with supplemental costs, like transportation or lodging. Because these organizations provide crucial financial aid and on-the-ground practical support, their role in the abortion access movement has increased since the Dobbs decision.

This piece, based on three Texas funds, is the third in a series of articles spotlighting interviews with fund representatives across the U.S.

Texas abortion funds across the state have been maneuvering complicated abortion restrictions for several years.

  • In March 2020, early in the COVID shutdown, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order that forced healthcare facilities to postpone surgeries or procedures not considered a medical emergency, including any abortions that were not necessary to protect the pregnant persons’ health.
  • The following year, in September, Texas passed SB 8, which banned abortion at six weeks gestation and permitted private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who assisted another person in accessing an abortion.
  • After the Supreme Court overturned Roe in 2022, the state’s trigger ban criminalized abortion in Texas. 

We interviewed representatives from the Frontera Fund, Texas Equal Access Fund (TEA Fund) and Jane’s Due Process (JDP) to learn how they have been navigating the increasingly challenging work of supporting abortion seekers in a state—home to 30 million residents and one in 10 U.S. women of reproductive age—where abortions are completely inaccessible.

These funds vary in scope and size but each has been crucial to sustaining abortion access for Texans. 

A march to defend women’s and reproductive rights in May 2022 in Dallas. (Facebook)

Frontera Fund

The Frontera Fund has been supporting abortion patients on the border since 2015. We spoke with Cathy Torres, the fund’s helpline coordinator and organizing manager. 

Cathy Torres (Frontera Fund): Frontera Fund is quite small: only me (organizing manager) and our executive director. We recently brought on a fellow, and then we have our six board members.

I oversee projects, community outreach, rapid response on the ground, and building relationships. I am also the helpline coordinator, so I take all the calls and coordinate funding and practical support. I also oversee legislative work. I find it very, very important to be involved with the community as much as possible, so if my schedule permits, I go to [community] events or organize them. We really try to be out there as much as possible.

Cathy Torres is the organizing manager for the Frontera Fund, which helps people in the Rio Grande Valley access and pay for abortions. (Instagram)

Texas Equal Access Fund (TEA Fund)

A University of North Texas professor founded the TEA Fund in 2005. It assists abortion seekers in North and East Texas, while also providing health and wellness resources to residents throughout the region. We spoke with TEA Fund’s executive director, Kamyon.

Kamyon (TEA Fund): As the executive director, I primarily work as a public face, handling staff management, fundraising, event planning, media and advocacy work. I often speak at events or rallies, aiming to bring more people into the movement and develop trust in TEA Fund as a local partner. We have a staff of nine, including a deputy director who manages program staff and human resources. 

Jane’s Due Process (JDP)

Founded in 2001, JDP is the only abortion fund in the state dedicated to assisting young Texans (17 and younger) navigate judicial bypass laws and access abortions. Since the total ban, JDP has transitioned to helping teens maneuver parental consent laws in other states and travel for their abortion. We spoke with Irma, JDP’s client services manager and sexual health educator.

Irma (JDP): My role began as the person who helped Texas minors get their judicial bypass for an abortion. Pre-Dobbs, pre-SB 8, once they called our helpline, it involved helping them navigate the legal process to go to court for a judicial bypass, but also helping them get to the clinic for their consultation and getting them to the clinic after court to get their abortion. I also worked to fill in the gaps related to socioeconomic issues, such as providing rides and other support.

Helping Clients Navigate Severe Restrictions

Each of these funds has a helpline for abortion seekers. Frontera, TEA and JDP staff then work to help callers find abortions out of state and cover the cost of travel, lodging and the procedure itself if necessary. 

Kamyon (TEA Fund): Our helpline is the thing we do the most. We spend more money on funding abortions and commit more funds to that than anything else. We’re still helping people get abortions outside of the state of Texas. We also have a textline staffed by volunteers, and it has language that has been vetted already by legal teams to ensure that it’s accurate and safe to share. Volunteers utilize that to help people navigate the confusing circumstances they’re in. 

Texas-based abortion funds have been helping their clients navigate severe abortion restrictions since 2020. 

Cathy Torres (Frontera Fund): 2020 was when a lot of us really got a sneak peek into what Texas would be like with an abortion ban. Even before SB 8, in April 2020, when COVID was the big change in the world, Governor Abbott decided to use abortion as a bargaining chip. He banned abortion completely for the month of April. People were literally en route to Whole Woman’s Health clinic in Rio Grande City and all of a sudden [the clinic] had to say, “Sorry we can’t.” When SB 8 was filed, we did everything we could to scream from the mountain tops that [Roe falling] was going to happen. 

Kamyon (TEA Fund): Because of SB 8, we had a month or two to prepare to get folks who were six weeks or more out of Texas [for abortions]. We were building the road while we were going, because all of that happened so quickly. We had to make additional relationships with clinics and abortion funds out of state to see if we could create referral networks with each other. 

Irma (JDP): Prepping for Dobbs included training other organizations on how to counsel and manage cases for young people, so that when the day came when everyone had to travel for their abortions, they already knew what to do. I think that we were a lot more prepared because we already were dealing with the legal system, having to talk to judges every day. That was a part of my daily work [even before SB8]: getting minors to the courthouse, helping them appeal their bypass if it was denied. If their parents were against it, or they couldn’t find out, finding ways to get creative to make sure that they were able to maybe skip class one day to get this abortion done. I always tell folks that we’re not new to this. 

Seeking Clarity Post-Roe

In the months after Roe fell, Texas laws prevented these organizations from funding abortions. In response, funds across the state filed a proactive lawsuit seeking clarity on what support they could provide abortion seekers. In February 2023, a district judge ruled that abortion and practical support funds could not be prosecuted for helping clients access abortions outside of the state.   

A teary staff member at Alamo Womens Reproductive Services in San Antonio, Texas, hugs a patient after informing her the clinic could no longer provide abortion services, just moments after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Cathy Torres (Frontera Fund): What really got the wheels turning was the SCOTUS leak. That was when I said, ‘Okay, let’s talk to the attorneys. What are we going to be able to do? What can’t we do?”’

Our attorneys were working day and night, really trying to get a good understanding of the laws. That was when we learned about the zombie laws and the trigger ban and why we had to completely stop [funding abortions].

The morning that Roe fell, I just knew it was going to be that day. That entire week and even up until the morning of, I was funding abortion in full. It was pretty much crisis mode from May until the day it happened. I told [our executive director], ‘It is going to be extremely painful for me to have to answer these calls and tell them no.’ So what we did to preserve the sliver of peace that we still had was set up an automatic voicemail, explaining what happened in English and in Spanish. 

Kamyon (TEA Fund): [Our lawyers encouraged us to pause our funding.] So that’s what we did. And that was a hard thing to do, as someone who ran our helpline forever, having to be the one that actually turned it off was hard. I can remember the volunteers who were staffing the helpline that week wanted to call every person back that hadn’t answered for like the whole month, just to see if we could get them help at the last minute. It was just so hard.

We closed our helpline on Thursday night, and we thought the ruling was going to come out on Monday, but it came out the very next day. I was in the Starbucks line crying, and the barista asked, ‘What happened!?’ and I told her, and then she cried. I think a lot of people will never forget where they were when they realized what happened. 

Cathy Torres (Frontera Fund): For safety reasons, we chose [to pause our funding efforts after Dobbs]. It was tough, but also, we were creative. We expanded our services to do non-abortion related stuff. Meanwhile, all the abortion funds filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas asking for clarifications. We needed to know, could we even help people travel? Were they going to threaten our donors? We are nonprofit, and we can do what we want with the money that we get.

[The case] ended up being picked up by a federal judge. When we were getting ready to serve Ken Paxton, the attorney general. He went on the lam and that felt like,’ Wow! We literally scared this man away.’ The federal judge was super annoyed with it. We started funding again a couple months after February [2023] and we were allowed to fund abortion again as long as it was outside of Texas. 

We were allowed to fund abortion again as long as it was outside of Texas. 

Cathy Torres, Frontera Fund

Expanding Resources Through Reproductive Justice Frameworks

After Dobbs, when they were prohibited from funding abortions, many Texas funds shifted their efforts towards expanding their healthcare and sex education resources as well as providing more practical support for local parents.

Kamyon (TEA Fund): We now offer infant care, resources like diapers, formula, food, medicine, school supplies, toys, books, those kinds of things to the community. People can call our helpline, and we will ship it to their house if they need something. That was inspired by folks listening to people who have had abortions.

Our Post Abortion Truth & Healing (PATH) group is made up of former clients. We call them back and see how their experience was. We understand that the barriers that made them call us are not going to go away. We heard from our PATH group members that the fall of Roe and even SB 8 were really triggering, and they wanted mental health, like everyone else. We did a survey, and the biggest barrier was cost, even if they had insurance.

So we started a mental health program for our PATH group members where we pay for 10 to 12 sessions. For some folks, this is their first time to ever have experience with a counselor, and they probably never would have if it weren’t for our support. So that’s been really awesome.

We also have repro kits in rural areas like East Texas and Dallas, Fort Worth and Denton, where people can pick up plan B, condoms, lube, pads, menstrual products and stuff like that. We also expanded to start paying for non-abortion services at abortion clinics. That includes sonograms, STI testing and insertion or removal of IUDs.

I think the ways in which we’re bold—such as offering holistic care, using an anti-capitalist framework to provide services, paying storytellers, and so forth—have not been easy for folks to get behind. When I share with folks the kind of work we do, they often say, ‘I’ve never heard of this.’ It’s so outside of the box that people don’t know how to get in the box with us. I think we’re revolutionary and the whole healthcare field [should be looking at] how abortion funds and doulas do healthcare as a model.

Irma (JDP): I am also the sexual health educator on staff. The sex education project called ‘Sex Talks’ is an ode to Megan Thee Stallion, because she’s from Texas. We host virtual sex education crash courses monthly. We help folks meet the needs of sex education that is not given in the schools and aim to fill the gaps left by inadequate sex education in schools

Texas funds utilize the reproductive justice framework to guide their approach to grassroots activism, but this sometimes leads to concern from supporters and donors. 

Kamyon (TEA Fund): We thought long and hard during our pause after Dobbs about how to engage more in our reproductive justice roots. What are the things that we would like to do to support our community? [We talked about how] crisis pregnancy centers do provide folks who are parenting with actual items and goods, even if there’s a price for them, like having to go through some sort of training or a prayer. We wanted to offer mutual aid to community members.

Nan (TEA’s former executive director) felt very adamant that TEA Fund wouldn’t be a reproductive justice organization if there was a white person in charge. We started as a repro rights organization, so a lot of the folks who wanted to give money at that time were attracted to that. As we have done things like sharing our opinions about Black Lives Matter, the border, the rights of trans children and teachers, we have gotten a lot of: ‘Hmm, this has nothing to do with abortion, so like, what are you doing? I just wanna give money for abortion, not all this extra that you’re doing.

Cathy Torres (Frontera Fund): Funds in Texas are led by people of color, or consist of a lot of folks of color. We are the people who could need help from an abortion fund as well. We are the community. White feminism is still rooted in white supremacy, and a lot of these larger organizations are white feminist, so it’s a constant battle against white supremacy. But we know that we are on the ground doing what we need to do because we are funding our communities. We have touched grass. We are involved and aware. 

Personal Connections Drive the Movement

It’s common for folks working in abortion funds to have a personal connection to the work. Over the course of our interview series, we’ve also heard from a variety of fund activists who are thrilled by the utterly radical nature of this work.

Cathy Torres (Frontera Fund): Around 2015, two close friends needed abortions. We were 19, freshmen in college and didn’t know what to do. They ended up finding random pills online; I don’t know what they took. I remember thinking, ‘This is not okay. It should not have been this hard or this expensive. They should not have had to go through this alone because they were away at college.’ That is really what ignited me, and I just dove in with repro organizing and learning more about reproductive justice.

I saw very clearly that there was a reason why two teens from the [Rio Grande] Valley were struggling, and I remember thinking that there are other people in this world that would not have had to struggle that hard. I started volunteering and clinic escorting. And then, in 2015, Frontera Fund launched, and I remember thinking, ‘Whoa! They are straight up being like, if you can’t pay for it, here [is the money].’ I was a huge fan. I went to all the events and asked to volunteer.

I have been involved with the hardcore music scene here since 2010, and I have been throwing shows since I was 16. So I thought, what if I throw a show, and then anything I make can just go to Frontera Fund. I called it “Justicia” (translated “justice”). I started doing that pretty consistently, and it was really successful. 

Kamyon (TEA Fund): I was recruited as a helpline volunteer around 2006. Talking to people whose biggest barrier was that they could not afford this care (which should be covered, or should be free, or should be accessible) made the biggest difference for me. I loved it.

I joined the board of directors in 2013 and began to run our helpline. I was a social worker, so I was prepped and ready to train people on how to do this, and I had the emotional maturity to lead volunteers through it and troubleshoot with them when it was hard. Then I became the executive director.

I have never felt so easily connected and at home with people as I do when I am around folks from abortion funds. The way that we intrinsically get each other is like nothing I’ve experienced anywhere else. I’m also learning that that’s because of the spirit that has been invoked into the reproductive justice movement as a whole.

Irma (JDP): I always had a personal passion towards sexual health or reproductive rights. I come from Houston and a very religious conservative background at home. My major at UT Austin was journalism, and my minor was in women and gender studies. My first real job was being a counselor at Austin Women’s Health Center, which is one of Austin’s longest-standing abortion clinics. Before that, I was very involved in the community with birth doula work and other volunteer work. Jane’s Due Process recruited me, and I became their client services manager. 

I was born to stir shit up, and I want to help everyone get an abortion. 

Irma, Jane’s Due Process

How the Funds Collaborate

Texas funds regularly collaborate with one another and with funds in other states. These collaborations have become increasingly important as abortion seekers are forced to travel for care. 

Cathy Torres (Frontera Fund): All of the Texas abortion funds are close knit. There are 10 abortion funds in Texas alone, and we all serve different parts of Texas. At Frontera Fund, we fund the entire border. After SB 8, we received a lot of donations, and we were able to fund practical support for even El Paso, which is twelve hours away by car. Fontera and West Fund [are extremely close]. Border funds stick together. In Texas alone, we meet monthly.

We also recently formed a coalition with border funds in New Mexico, Arizona and folks who fund people who happen to live on the border. For example, Indigenous Women Rising funds Indigenous people nationwide, and they’re based in New Mexico, so it’s within a border state. Mariposa Fund funds undocumented people all over, and they’re also based in New Mexico. It’s been really great, because the border experience is completely unique. I love sharing space with them. Because of SB 8, wherever our callers were going, we were connected with funds in that state. We have constant communication and are always excited to connect with other abortion funds, literally anywhere. And on a personal level, it’s pretty cool to be able to have this [community] across the country. We have community because we’ve had to, but it’s also a silver lining. 

How the Funds Stay Safe

Across the country, abortion fund staffers and volunteers have employed strategies to keep themselves physically and emotionally safe. In Texas, funds have particularly struggled to keep themselves legally safe as well.

Kamyon (TEA Fund): I can remember going to a small town to testify and people videoed the car I was in. We utilize our office mailing address when we sign up to testify, so that our home addresses aren’t on the list. We have ‘Delete Me for all of our staff, all of our board members, and PATH group members. We’ve had some folks who have higher profiles in our organization receive Brightlines, which is a deep internet takedown.

We provide stipends for staff who would like security cameras or equipment at their home. We started that after I got a subpoena at my home. I wasn’t home when it happened, but they came to serve me at home when they were supposed to serve the attorneys. It was a fear tactic.

We’ve had trainings around making our social media footprint a little different. We have two-factor authentication on everything. We use a buddy system; we check in on each other. 

Cathy Torres (Frontera Fund): After Roe fell, the laws were very big on prosecution and criminalization, and they were ready to throw us in jail. At Frontera Fund, we are very aware of our identities as people of color, many of whom have piercings and tattoos, who live on the border with five plus layers of policing. Our safety is our priority, and all the other funds feel the same. 

Irma (JDP): We got a positive preliminary judgment in our case in February 2023, and that gave us the green light to still help folks access abortion. Obviously there’s a risk, because anti-choice folks in the legislature find anything and everything to use against abortion funds. But that positive preliminary judgment gave us the bravery to be able to do this work. Many folks did take a step back from the movement, and that’s okay. I moved out of Texas actually, (not because of safety), but it provided me with an extra layer of protection because I’m not technically in Texas anymore. 

Protecting Digital Footprints

With political discussions surrounding the criminalization of abortions increasing, funds are implementing practices to help clients protect themselves and keep their digital footprint private.

Irma (JDP): Our last social media manager used to work for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and they [use quick-escape button] on their website. She brought that expertise to JDP, because a lot of the young people that were asking for support couldn’t talk to their parents about getting an abortion. They could possibly also have an abusive partner, but usually it was just a very intense home environment that required them to keep track of their digital footprint and or have to delete their text messages. Sometimes they could only talk to me in their closet at a specific time, and they could only whisper, or talk to me during lunch, or talk to me by using someone else’s phone at school. So that was a very minor way for us to figure out a way to keep them safe.

Managing Burnout to Continue the Fight

In the face of these obstacles and fears, activists must carve out time to rest and recuperate to keep doing this taxing work. 

Kamyon (TEA Fund): I’ll be honest and say, sometimes, I don’t know if I can keep going, especially over the last four years. My life has forever changed by things that have happened in the last four years. We focus a lot on self care and community care, but the weight of this work and the targeting is so scary. As an executive director, I don’t feel like there are enough benefits. There’s not enough that I can do to help people feel like it’s okay to take that on. We have self care days; once a month every person gets one. We have a stipend to help folks with self care and we have a four day work week. And yet I still needed the sabbatical that I just came back from.

Burnout is real. But what I know is that we will win. We have to win. There’s not a choice. It’s the right thing. It’s what people deserve. So if I believe that, then I’m okay to keep doing it, because I know it’ll happen. [I] try to remember that, as deeply personal as this work is to me, that this is also my job, and that the other things in my life that are super important to me like creating queer communities, abolishing the carceral system, watering my plants, learning how to do handiwork in my new house are also important to me, and I have to make time and space for them as well as eating at least twice a day. 

Burnout is real. But what I know is that we will win. We have to win. There’s not a choice. It’s the right thing. It’s what people deserve.

Kamyon, Texas Equal Access Fund

Irma (JDP): The fact that abortion funds exist allows a lot of people to stay alive and not get sentenced to parenthood. I always talk about pleasure activism as my Bible, my religion. People are allowed to have pleasure in their life. I come from a marginalized community. I’m queer. I come from the South. I’ve seen folks not able to access abortion care or getting infections from unsafe abortions. I know folks who have died. There is a personal connection.

I truly feel like I was born to do this. I was born to stir shit up, and I want to help everyone get an abortion. 

Uplifting Texas Abortion Funders

Since 2020, the abortion access movement has looked to Texas to understand how to respond to severe abortion restrictions. Today, Texas-based funders are asking proponents of abortion access to continue uplifting their work and supporting abortion seekers in Texas. 

Kamyon (TEA Fund): Abortion funds exist in states [like Texas] where abortion is basically inaccessible. The notion to forget us and shift resources somewhere else is something I’ve been grappling with, because I feel like people know Texas is a battleground for a lot of different things. It’s a place to study because what starts here trickles out to a lot of the other places in the country.

I would love to share a reminder that we’re still doing incredible work. We are the safety networks supporting folks getting care all over the country. Our powerful reach should be honored, and I hope that folks continue to support the work that we’re doing because the people in Texas deserve care, just like everybody else, and they’re being forced to travel to get it. I feel like folks think states with the highest bans are a lost cause. And we’re where the cause needs to be. Resource us the most.

In spite of the hardships Texas abortion funders have faced, they continue to work together to not only help abortion seekers navigate one of the harshest abortion landscapes in the U.S. but also to provide Texans with the right to raise their families in safe and healthy environments.

Editor’s note: The organization Plan C has a comprehensive guide to finding abortion pills on their website at www.plancpills.org. Select “Find Abortion Pills” and then select the state where you are located from the drop-down menu. The website is continually updated and has all the latest information on where to find abortion pills from anywhere in the U.S.

Up next:

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About and

Hannah Dudley-Shotwell, Ph.D., is honors faculty at Longwood University. She is the author of Revolutionizing Women’s Healthcare: The Feminist Self-Help Movement in America (Rutgers, 2020).
Justina Licata, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of U.S. history at Indiana University East. Her research explores the history of population control, reproductive justice and social policies in the 1990s.