Company owner of abortion boat operating in federal waters under scrutiny
An “abortion boat” floating in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico has been pitched as a safe alternative for women in a post-Roe v. Wade America.
But some critics have sounded the alarm, claiming the brainchild behind the company is a fraudster far more committed to making a quick buck than preserving reproductive rights.
The boat, a 74-foot Viking sportfishing 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 don’t apply. On July 23, Abort Offshore announced that it had performed 34 abortions as a test. By Aug. 3, the company claimed 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 Aug. 26, owner Michael Kimbro told the Washington Examiner that the number had jumped to 250.
Kimbro is a charismatic businessman who grew up in Texas but lives in Manhattan with his wife, Amanda, and their child. He admittedly knows little about abortions or the medical field other than what has been self-taught. At different points in his life, he owned a furniture company and was a mortgage broker.
He was driven to his latest venture following the Supreme Court’s June decision to reverse Roe, a ruling that has led to abortion bans across the country.
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Unsurprisingly, women have been forced to go to extreme lengths to obtain a procedure since the ban went into effect.
Kimbro told the Washington Examiner it was time to get involved.
Abort Offshore has two boats and conducts as many procedures per week as possible, Kimbro said.
Patients are referred by their doctor “to a sonogram company that is independently owned but controlled by us,” Kimbro said. “We leave it up to them, but, obviously, I control it.”
The doctors send a code to the sonogram company. The sonogram providers are the ones who put patients on the list. The would-be patients are then given another code and a number to call.
“We respond back with a recommendation to use [encrypted messaging app] Signal,” he said. “If they don’t want to use Signal, we tell them to go buy a $49 burner phone to communicate with us.”
A cash payment between $1,500 and $2,000 is required in full to secure an appointment.
Getting women to the boats and back without getting either the provider or the patient detected is riddled with risk. 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 show up at a particular hotel. They are sedated at the hotel and then driven to one of three bed-and-breakfasts with private docks. From there, a small boat carries the patient to a larger boat in federal waters, about 90 minutes away. A doctor — there are two working for the company and are in their 60s — performs the abortion in a stateroom below deck that has been outfitted with a portable gynecological table. The actual procedure takes about 10 minutes. After it is completed, the patient is then put on a small boat and taken to a different B&B before ultimately being taken back to the first hotel by a driver.
“I certainly never thought at 42 that I’m a woman who would get pregnant,” Kim, a patient who underwent the procedure, told WOAI, “or that I would be in a situation to make that kind of decision to, you know, to end a pregnancy and have to go through those lengths to do so.”
Another patient named Ashley, 24, said, “There’s just no way I would have a baby right now. There are so many reasons why. So, I guess all of those reasons outweigh getting caught.”
If Kim or Ashley were caught, they could have been held criminally and civilly liable. Civil penalties can run as much as $100,000. Under a Texas Senate bill, anyone who helps can be sued for up to $10,000 by a private citizen.
Despite its advantages, 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 to launch a similar boat-abortion service for years. Autry is still in the process of trying to raise the $20 million she needs to buy the boat, secure liability insurance, and find ways to provide patient care before her business gets off the ground.
There has been speculation swirling about how Kimbro “has been able to do so much in such a short amount of time.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists told the Washington Examiner that it “does not have a position on this particular approach to increasing access to abortion, but we recognize the safety of abortion and support increasing 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,” his name spelled backward, which has racked up a laundry list of fraud accusations. In fact, Kimbro is currently serving probation in Texas for charges stemming from moving money between his companies.
Kimbro told Jezebel he has been arrested on fraud charges and sued “many, many times.”
“I have been arrested and detained but never been processed into jail,” he said. “More importantly, I have also never been convicted of any crime. I have run afoul of the law several times and have a few dozen complaints from thousands of customers my companies have served.”
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Kimbro also pushed back on claims he is on probation despite his criminal record from Harris County, Texas.
“My cases remain unadjudicated but fall within the responsibility of the probation department,” he said. “My answer remains that I haven’t been convicted of any crimes.”