Floating abortion clinic proposed for US South to bypass bans

Ship in Gulf of Mexico could provide abortion services to those in anti-abortion southern states

The Planned Parenthood South Dallas Surgical Health Services Centre in Texas, a state that sits on the Gulf of Mexico. Bloomberg
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A California doctor has proposed setting up a floating abortion clinic in the Gulf of Mexico as a way to circumvent abortion bans in the US South.

The idea is to provide a clinic aboard a ship in federal waters and out of reach of state laws, offering first trimester surgical abortions, contraception and other care, said Meg Autry, an obstetrician, gynaecologist and professor at the University of California San Francisco.

“There’s been an assault on reproductive rights in our country and I’m a lifelong advocate for reproductive health and choice,” she told The Associated Press.

“We have to create options and be thoughtful and creative to help people in restrictive states get the health care they deserve.”

Dr Autry said the idea is only in the fundraising stage through the non-profit organisation Protecting Reproductive Rights Of Women Endangered by State Statutes (Prrowess).

The proposal comes as abortion access in the South was swiftly curtailed after the US Supreme Court rolled back protections with the reversal of Roe v Wade, returning the issue back to the states.

Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas have all had abortion bans take effect. A Florida law, which came into effect after a legal back-and-forth, prohibits abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions if the procedure is necessary to save a life, prevent serious injury or if the foetus has a fatal abnormality.

Dr Autry said her legal team believes there is a part of federal water in which licensed providers could safely and legally provide abortions out of reach of state laws.

For women living in southern states with abortion bans, going to the coast and boarding a boat may be easier than trying to travel to a state where abortion remains legal, she said.

“This is closer and faster access for some people, particularly for working people that live in the southernmost part of these states,” she said.

Dr Autry said she is still trying to work out many of the details, such as where the boat will launch and how women would get to the ship.

Separately, the Biden administration on Monday told hospitals that they “must” provide abortion services if the life of the mother is at risk, saying federal law on emergency treatment guidelines pre-empts state laws in jurisdictions that now ban the procedure without any exceptions.

Updated: July 11, 2022, 9:49 PM