Months before the U.S. Supreme Court leak, it was revealed that the nation’s highest court was poised to overturn the landmark abortion case Roe v. Kathy. Wade, Rev. Daniel Kanter was among Texas religious leaders who helped those who were fighting the state’s own restrictions on abortion.
Since Senate Bill 8, a six-week ban that went into effect September 1, some North Texas clergy have sought to help people in the region get abortions. The new Texas law was considered the toughest in the country until Oklahoma passed a tougher law last week.
For Canter’s First Unitarian Church in Dallas, the history of abortion rights action goes back to the beginning of the Roe Against Slavery case. Wade, which was decided in 1973. All along, the church has helped to continue the tradition of providing asylum to those who consider abortion a fundamental right.
Kanter created a multi-faith chaplaincy program six years ago that sent chaplains to the Southwestern Women’s Surgical Hospital in Dallas to provide spiritual advice and support to those who had abortions there.
But when SB 8 was passed, Kanter said he knew their program would have to evolve as the clinic shrank by 70% and the effort needed to help out-of-state patients seek services.
“I just transferred the clinic chaplain to the travel program,” Kanter said.
In December, he organized the first trip of 20 women to Southwestern Women’s Options, a sister clinic founded by Dr. Curtis Boyd.
The travel program is designed for patients with incomes below the poverty line.
Some religious groups often oppose abortion, but Kanter said many church volunteers send notes and pastries every month to those who travel to New Mexico.
New Mexico’s Boyd Clinic Southwestern Women’s Options recently settled a $900,000 wrongful death lawsuit in which a 23-year-old woman died in a multi-day outpatient process. According to the Guttmacher Institute, New Mexico is a state that has no limits on gestational age of pregnancy for elective abortions or waiting periods.
The New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice handles logistical support, while Kanter and other clergy are focused on being there for those who need prayer or advice.
“Now we go biweekly mainly because the clinic in New Mexico is overloaded with another 20 patients on schedule,” Kanter said.
Since December, the group has taken 20 women to New Mexico on trips organized at least twice a month.
“Being a priest for these 20 people who wanted to have an abortion was one of the most spiritual, powerful and meaningful experiences in my ministry,” said Rev. Erin Walter, director of the Texas Unitarian Universalist Department of Justice, who accompanied the group as chaplain a few weeks ago.