A California OBGYN is planning to build a floating abortion clinic on federal waters free from state restrictions

A California OBGYN is planning to build a floating abortion clinic on federal waters free from state restrictions
·3 min read
  • Dr. Meg Autry is a California OBGYN who provides abortions. She's planning a clinic on a boat in federal waters.

  • The boat would primarily serve people in southern states where abortion is heavily restricted.

  • Autry is currently seeking funding, researching boats, and looking into legal obstacles for the first-of-its-kind project.

Dr. Meg Autry knows more about boats and maritime law than your average gynecologist.

Autry, a California-based OBGYN and abortion provider for 30 years, never expected her career to involve researching ocean vessels. But when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, Autry decided to pursue a plan she'd been thinking about for years, a floating abortion clinic on federal waters free from state restrictions.

A Mississippi native, Autry was intrigued by the riverboat casinos she saw during childhood. She wondered what made gambling on the water legal when it wasn't allowed on land, and if that concept could be applied to other actions individual states prohibit.

About five years ago, the idea for a floating abortion clinic popped into her head as she noticed more threats to abortion rights and experienced hostile situations while she provided abortions. When former SCOTUS Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and the Supreme Court became a conservative majority soon after, Autry said it felt more urgent than ever.

"And so I was constantly thinking about, 'What are some innovative and creative ways that we could provide access?'" Autry told Insider.

Autry is currently looking for funding and anticipates legal obstacles

At first, Autry wanted her clinic to float in the Mississippi River. Currently, there are no abortion clinics in the state and the procedure is banned after six weeks of pregnancy.

During initial talks with lawyers who specialize in reproductive rights and maritime law, Autry learned the location choice would come with severe legal restrictions. As they awaited the SCOTUS decision about Roe v. Wade, Autry's team settled on the Gulf Coast of Mexico.

This way, a floating clinic can serve people in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

Now Autry is seeking funding to buy a boat and retrofit it with medical equipment under the non-profit PRROWESS, or Protecting Reproductive Rights Of Women Endangered by State Statutes. For their clinic needs, it must be at least 45 meters long, but they don't need something as large as a cruise ship or military vessel, Autry said.

Once they have a boat, she hopes the clinic will be up and running within a year, once it meets both clinical and maritime standards.

Abortion seekers in southern states need more clinic options

Autry's primary goal is to serve and protect abortion seekers with limited options.

In Texas, for example, all abortion services shut down following the SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Now, Texans seeking abortions must cross state lines to places like New Mexico. Often low-income, they may not have the time off work or money to afford a flight or long drive to get the care they seek.

"This is potentially the quickest, closest options for some of those patients," Autry said.

She was hesitant to share certain details of her plan, like sketches of the clinic setup and her ideal vessel, with Insider, citing potential future security issues and the increasing criminalization of abortion care.

"We know how dangerous it is for patients and providers," Autry said.

There's already public interest in the floating abortion clinic. Autry said she's received funds from small donors and offers to volunteer from legal, maritime, and medical experts in abortion-restricted states.

"The outpour of support has been really unexpected, exciting, heartwarming, and gut-wrenching," Autry said.

Read the original article on Insider