An ‘abortion boat’ floating in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico has been touted as a safe alternative for post-natal women.Roe vs. Wade America.
But some critics have sounded the alarm, saying the idea behind the company is a fraudster far more determined to make a quick buck than to preserve reproductive rights.
The boat, a 74-foot Viking sport fishing vessel, is run by a for-profit company called Abort Offshore. The company offers abortions up to 20 weeks in federal waters where state abortion bans do not apply. On July 23, Abort Offshore announced that it performed 34 test abortions. As of August 3, the company claims to have provided more than 100 procedures. Ten days later, the company tweeted that it had performed nearly 200 legal abortions for women in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
On August 26, owner Michael Kimbro told the Washington Examiner that the number had increased to 250.
Kimbro is a charismatic businessman who grew up in Texas but lives in Manhattan with his wife, Amanda, and their child. It is true that he knows little about abortions or the medical field other than what he learned as an autodidact. At various times in his life, he owned a furniture business and was a mortgage broker.
He was driven to his latest venture following the Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn deera decision that led to the nationwide abortion ban.
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Unsurprisingly, women have been forced to go to great lengths to obtain procedures since the ban came into force.
Kimbro told the Washington Examiner it was time to get involved.
Abort Offshore has two boats and performs as many procedures per week as possible, Kimbro said.
Patients are referred by their doctor “to an ultrasound company that is independently owned but controlled by us,” Kimbro said. “We leave it up to them, but obviously I’m in control.”
The doctors send a code to the ultrasound company. Ultrasound providers are the ones who enroll patients on the list. Potential patients are then given another code and a number to call.
“We respond with a recommendation for use [encrypted messaging app] Signal,” he said. “If they don’t want to use Signal, we tell them to go buy a $49 phone to communicate with us.”
A cash payment between $1,500 and $2,000 is required in full to secure an appointment.
Bringing women to and from boats without either the provider or the patient being detected is riddled with risks. Kimbro said he tries to make things “as confusing as possible” to get around bounty hunter laws.
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A patient is told to report to a mansion. They are sedated at the hotel, then taken to one of three bed-and-breakfasts with private docks. From there, a small boat transports the patient to a larger boat in federal waters, about 90 minutes away. A doctor – there are two who work for the company and are in their 60s – performs abortions in a cabin below deck which has been fitted with a portable gynecological table. The actual procedure takes about 10 minutes. When finished, the patient is then put on a small boat and taken to another B&B before finally being driven back to the first hotel by a driver.
“I certainly never thought at 42 that I was a woman who would get pregnant,” said Kim, a patient who underwent the procedure. said WOAI, “or that I would be in a situation where I would make this kind of decision, you know, to end a pregnancy and I would have to go through these steps to do it.”
Another patient named Ashley, 24, said: “There’s just no way I’m having a baby right now. There are so many reasons why. So I guess all of those reasons l outweigh getting caught.”
If Kim or Ashley had been arrested, they could have been held criminally and civilly liable. Civil penalties can be up to $100,000. Under a Texas Senate bill, anyone helping can be sued for up to $10,000 by a private citizen.
Despite its benefits, some pro-abortion rights advocates have been skeptical of Abort Offshore, its promises and its founder.
OB-GYN Meg Autry has been working on plans for years to launch a similar boat abortion service. Autry is still trying to raise the $20 million she needs to buy the boat, arrange liability insurance and find ways to provide patient care before her business starts.
There has been speculation about how Kimbro “could have done so much in such a short time”.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists told the Washington Examiner that he “does not have a position on this particular approach to increasing access to abortion, but we recognize the safety of abortion and support expanding access to it.”
Another red flag associated with Kimbro is his background, which includes registering dozens of random businesses, including a furniture company called “Orbmik”, its name spelled backwards, which has amassed a long list of charges of fraud. In fact, Kimbro is currently serving probation in Texas for charges related to transferring money between his businesses.
Kimbro said Jezebel he was arrested for fraud and prosecuted “many, many times”.
“I was arrested and detained but I was never imprisoned,” he said. “Most importantly, I have never been convicted of any crime. I have broken the law many times and received a few tens of complaints from thousands of clients my businesses have served.”
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Kimbro also pushed back against claims that he is on probation despite having a criminal record from Harris County, Texas.
“My cases remain without trial but are the responsibility of the probation service,” he said. “My answer remains that I have not been convicted of any crime.”