Some North Texas clergy say helping abortion patients travel is a ‘powerful’ experience

Months before the US Supreme Court’s leak revealed that the nation’s highest court was on the verge of overturning the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, Reverend Daniel Kanter was among Texas clergy working to help those grappling with state abortion restrictions.

In the wake of Senate Act Number 8, the six-week ban that went into effect on September 1, some North Texas clergy have sought to help those in the area have abortions. Texas’ new law was considered the most restrictive in the country until Oklahoma enacted an even tougher law last week.

For Canter’s First Uniting Church in Dallas, the history of the Abortion Rights Act can be traced back to the beginnings of Roe v. Wade, set out in 1973. All the while, the church has helped continue the tradition of providing sanctuary for those we believe abortion is a fundamental right.

Six years ago, Kanter created an interfaith program in which priests go to Southwestern Women’s Surgical in Dallas to provide spiritual counseling and affirmation to those who have aborted there.

The study found that the new Texas abortion law was just one of 106 new restrictions passed in 19 states in 2021

But when SB 8 was activated, Kanter said he knew their program needed to evolve as the clinic saw a 70% reduction and effort required to help patients seeking services in other states.

“I just transferred the priest inside the clinic to the travel program,” Kanter said.

In December, he organized the first trip for 20 women to the facility’s sister clinic, Southwestern Women’s Options, which was founded by Dr. Curtis Boyd.

The travel program is for eligible patients with income below the poverty line.

Some religious groups are often associated with opposition to abortion, but Kanter said many church volunteers wrote notes and baked goods to send with those who travel to New Mexico each month.

The Boyd Clinic of New Mexico Southwestern Women’s Options has settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $900,000, in which a 23-year-old woman died in a multi-day outpatient operation. New Mexico is a country with no gestational age restrictions for elective abortions and no waiting periods according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The Religious Alliance for Reproductive Choice of New Mexico handles the logistics while Kanter and other clergymen focus on being there for those who want prayer or counseling.

“We go every two weeks now mostly because the clinic in New Mexico is overburdened by 20 other patients on their schedule,” Kanter said.

Since December, the group has flown 20 women to New Mexico on flights arranged at least twice a month.

‘Spiritual support’

“Being a chaplain for these 20 people seeking abortion has been one of the most spiritual, powerful, and meaningful experiences in my ministry,” said Reverend Erin Walter, director of the Texas Unitarian Department of Justice who accompanied the group as a chaplain several weeks ago.

The flight began at First Unitarian in Dallas at 5:30 a.m., and the women were provided with “spiritual support,” then left for the airport, Walter said, adding that some of the women had never traveled before.

After the trip, they were taken to the Religious Alliance facility for breakfast and to prepare for appointments.

“In the afternoon, you know, rest. I prayed with some of them and just asked … to surround them with a sense of comfort and peace and to guide the hands and minds of the health care providers they would meet,” Walter said.

Walter said the patients were provided with lunch, and by the end of the day they were on the flight back to Dallas.

Most of the women who sought help on Walter’s journey were women of color. Some were working their jobs on their laptops while others would return from the trip and head to their shift at the factory. Another was getting ready to go to prom the next day.

Fears are growing that the number of Texans seeking abortions in other states — or even in Mexico and other countries — will only increase if Roe is overturned, as expected, when the Supreme Court will soon rule on a pivotal case from Mississippi.

Texas Health and Human Services estimated that the number of reported abortions in the state fell nearly 60% in the first month after the new restrictions went into effect last September.

Dallas Attorney Linda Coffey launches Roe v. Wade’s abortion rights case, with $15 filing fee

Leave a Comment