Bay Area doctor plans abortion services via boat off the Gulf of Mexico

3 mins read

A Bay Area OB-GYN plans to offer abortion services and reproductive healthcare to different southern states bordering the Gulf of Mexico through a boat sailing on federal waters. 

Dr. Meg Autry, also a professor at UCSF, has been working on implementing the effort. But when Roe v. Wade was overturned, Autry said their plans were accelerated. 

The plan called PROWESS (Protecting Reproductive Rights of Women Endangered by State Statutes) aims to bring reproductive healthcare to states where abortions are banned, limited, or hard to access. 

Autry noted in an interview that people living in southern parts of states with restrictive abortion policies, such as Texas and Louisana, are closer to the coasts than to nearby states with abortion access. It is also cheaper to board a boat than buy plane tickets to another state. 

Autry has performed abortions for decades and refers to herself as “a lifelong educator, a lifelong career abortion advocate.”

“It is my life’s work,” she said.

“Part of the reason we’re working on this project so hard is because wealthy people in our country are always going to have access [to abortions], so once again it’s a time now where poor, people of color, marginalized individuals, are gonna suffer –and by suffering I mean like lives lost,” Autry said.

Autry then explained that the ship would operate on federal waters — 9 miles from the coast of Texas and 3 from the coast of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi — where it could avoid those state’s abortion restrictions.

PRROWESS will help arrange for patients to be transported to the ship once they pass a pre-screening process. 

Autry, alongside a team of licensed medical professionals, plans to offer surgical abortions for up to 14 weeks of pregnancy. The PRROWESS team will also provide other gynecological services such as testing and treating sexually transmitted infections. 

“The project is being funded with philanthropy and the patients care is on a needs basis, so most individuals will pay little to nothing for services,” Autry said.

Stacy Cross, president of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, which offers services in California and Nevada, says it’s not surprising that health care providers are teaming up. 

Cross explained that abortion service providers had been preparing for a post-Roe world and that “over the years we’ve talked about things like boats on federal waters out past the 5-mile line.”

“It’s just it’s a testament to the time we’re in, because its really horrific that we’re having to think of these things in the United States of America, how to keep people safe,” Cross said.