A couple Alaska-based NWAAF board members palling around.
A couple Alaska-based NWAAF board members standing ready to serve. COURTESY NWAAF

Last night the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block a Texas law that bans abortions after six weeks (which is when most procedures take place) due to infinitely surmountable procedural issues they pretended were insurmountable. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor described it in her dissent, Texas will enforce that law by effectively putting a $10,000 "bounty" on the head of anyone who helps anyone else access abortion care in the country's second-largest state. Anyone in the U.S. can execute that bounty, so if any right-wing billionaires want to staff up some sort of Project Veritas group to hunt down abortion providers (or Uber drivers transporting pregnant people to an abortion clinic, or anyone working for an abortion fund) in Texas, then that door is wide open.

In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan called the bill "patently unconstitutional." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed to pass legislation to codify the right to an abortion into federal law... as soon as Congress returns to session on Sept. 20. Biden called for a "whole-of-government response," whatever the fuck that means. Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler compared Texas Republicans to "the Taliban" and warned, as many others have warned, that the law sets a dangerous precedent for other dark-red Legislatures to follow. Though the Texas law didn't trigger Idaho's own so-called "heartbeat" bill to take effect, for instance, those dingbats could move on a Texas-style bill when the session starts back up in January.

That's where a law passed in Texas could impact the work in Washington, according to Iris Alatorre, program manager at the Northwest Abortion Access Fund (NWAAF).

Though Washington legalized abortion statewide in a 1991 initiative, pregnant people in Washington and in the Pacific Northwest still struggle to find and afford abortion care.

Lillian Lanier, political and organizing director for NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, said barriers to access in our pro-choice state include "high deductibles, discriminatory restrictions to abortion care at local health systems, or needing to long travel distances to an abortion clinic." All of those barriers hit "low-income, rural, Black, Indigenous, People of Color, LGBTQ+ and young folks who already face increased barriers to healthcare access" the hardest, she added.

Like other abortion funds, NWAAF helps close the gap by paying for abortions and by offering logical support (ground transportation, air travel, lodging) for people who must travel long distances to find a provider. People come to Washington from all over the country to access later abortion care, and NWAAF helps arrange funds for those people to get here, too.

Within the region, though, Alatorre said about 60% of the people they serve live in Idaho. On average, every month NWAAF helps to fund 130 abortions and to arrange rides and lodging for about 20 people. So if Idaho follows in Texas' footsteps and passes a bounty hunter abortion law deliberately loaded with complex procedural issues designed to avoid judicial review, then NWAAF would have some tough choices to make that would impact a fair number of vulnerable people.

"I don’t know what we’d really do if it came down that," Alatorre said. "Many of us in this work are deeply committed to the right for people to have reproductive justice... It’s important to be dynamic and creative in order to help people receive basic life-saving health care," she said.

She added that the SCOTUS decision feels "pretty scary and catastrophic in a lot of ways" in terms of abortion funds trying to figure out their next moves.

"It’s scary that anti-abortion activists are finally understanding the amount of power that abortion funds hold in helping people access abortion, and that they’re finding ways to restrict the ways we can help people," she said.

If the Court allows other extreme abortion bans to go into effect, Lanier predicts "an influx of patients" who will need to travel to Washington for care. To prepare for that, she recommends continuing to "expand abortion access and allocate resources toward local abortion providers, clinics, and abortion funds to ensure patients seeking abortion in Washington can get the care they need."

Support The Stranger

For people who have the time, money, and inclination to support reproductive justice, the best thing you can do right now is support abortion funds in Texas. Whole Woman's Health Alliance is taking money, and Clinic Access Support Network is distributing donations to nine other abortions funds in the state.

If you've got more money after that, you can kick NWAAF some cash. If you've got more time than money, you can volunteer. "We need more people who are pro-choice to know that we exist. There is a movement beyond reproductive rights, there’s a movement for reproductive justice, and that’s at the core of people getting abortion care," Alatorre said.

If political work suits you best, then Lanier suggests you push your state and local officials on the issue. "State legislators and municipal leaders have an impact on decisions ranging from insurance coverage for reproductive healthcare to the availability of public transportation to and from clinics. We need to make sure we elect officials who will protect and expand abortion access for the communities they represent," she said.