California doctor proposes floating abortion clinic in Gulf of Mexico to bypass bans

An abortion-rights supporter holds a 'Protect Choice' sign and protests at the Mississippi Capitol.
An abortion-rights supporter protests at the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson, Miss. A California doctor is proposing a floating abortion clinic in the Gulf of Mexico as a way to maintain access for people in Southern states where abortion bans have been enacted.
(Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press)

A California doctor is proposing a floating abortion clinic in the Gulf of Mexico as a way to maintain access for people in the southern United States where abortion bans have been enacted.

The idea is to provide a clinic aboard a ship in federal waters, and out of reach of state laws, that would offer first trimester surgical abortions, contraception and other care, said Dr. Meg Autry, an obstetrician and gynecologist and a professor at UC San Francisco.

“There’s been an assault on reproductive rights in our country and I’m a lifelong advocate for reproductive health and choice. We have to create options and be thoughtful and creative to help people in restrictive states get the health care they deserve,” she told the Associated Press.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order to protect access to abortion as he faced mounting pressure from fellow Democrats to be more forceful on the subject.

Autry said the idea is only in the fundraising stage through the nonprofit PRROWESS — short for Protecting Reproductive Rights of Women Endangered by State Statutes.

The proposal comes as abortion access in Southern states has been swiftly curtailed after the U.S. Supreme Court turned the issue of abortion back to the states.


Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas have had abortion bans take effect. A Florida law, which is in 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 fetus has a fatal abnormality.

Activists in Poland say there are ways to work around even draconian anti-abortion measures. But there’s plenty to fear, they say.

Autry said their legal team believes there is a swath of federal water where licensed providers could safely and legally provide abortions out of reach of state laws. For women in Southern states with abortion bans, going to the coast and boarding a boat may be closer and 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.

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