A California doctor plans to offer abortion services to women in southern states like Alabama, via a boat that operates as a floating clinic in federal waters off the Gulf Coast, according to reports.
“The project is philanthropically funded and patient care is needs-based, so most individuals will pay little or nothing for the services,” Autry said in an interview with NBC Bay Area.
Autry, who is also a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, said the floating clinic will provide surgical abortions for up to 14 weeks, contraception, on-site testing for sexually transmitted infections and more.
Its goal is to provide reproductive services to women in states whose laws prohibit abortion, limit the procedure, or make access difficult. A team of licensed medical professionals would staff the clinic about three weeks a month, according to Autry’s plan.
PROROWESS hopes to acquire a donated boat, Autry said, which would be converted into a floating clinic. Money raised by the project would also be used for ongoing costs such as patient care, security and liability insurance.
Autry said she had been considering the idea of a floating clinic for years, but her plans were “accelerated” by the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
“I am a lifelong educator, advocate for abortion and reproductive rights,” Autry said in a interview with KCBS, a San Francisco radio station. “And I believe strongly, strongly in equitable health care, and so that’s kind of been my life’s work.”
The clinic, floating in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico, would not be subject to abortion restrictions in neighboring states, according to the FAQs on the PROROWESS website.
Generally, federal waters begin nine nautical miles from the coast of Texas and three nautical miles from the coasts of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Patients will be transported to the ship in different ways, depending on the distance, once they have passed a screening process.
For women who want an abortion in Southern states, a trip to the floating clinic may be easier than traveling to other states where abortion is legal, according to the PRROWESS website.
“Our research indicates that patients are willing to seek care at a floating clinic, and these types of facilities have been used by the military and humanitarian organizations for years,” the PRROWESS website says.
Although Autry and her team say their plans for the floating clinic are legal, they expect backlash and legal challenges from states that have banned or restricted abortions.
“We have a very powerful legal team,” Autry told NBC Bay Area. “I’m sure there will be legal hurdles and issues at every step of this journey.”