When the Alabama legislature passed House Bill 314 last month and Gov. Kay Ivey signed it into law, it became the most restrictive of the nine state abortion bans passed this year, six of them in Southern states. The bans are part of a concerted effort to challenge the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
The Alabama law classifies abortion as a Class A felony and seeks to punish those who perform abortions with up to 99 years in prison. It has not been implemented yet amid a legal challenge from the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. If the law does take effect, it will disproportionately impact Black and poor women.
Meanwhile, abortion rights groups are reminding Alabamians that abortion is still legal in the state. They include the Yellowhammer Fund, an organization that provides funding for anyone seeking care at one of Alabama's three abortion clinics while also helping women surmount other barriers to access such as travel and lodging.
Part of the National Network of Abortion Funds, the group was founded soon after President Donald Trump's election out of concern for what that meant for reproductive rights. Named after Alabama's state bird, the Yellowhammer Fund is guided by Black feminist thought and the work of reproductive justice advocates like Laurie Bertram Roberts of the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund.
Facing South recently spoke with Amanda Reyes, the Yellowhammer Fund's executive director, about what the ban's passage means for her organization's work and about the influx of donations in the wake of the ban's passage.
Since the abortion ban was passed in Alabama, what kind of responses have you seen?
We saw this big outpouring of support from folks all around the country and internationally — people with donations, and people being outraged.
We also saw a mass panic. Usually we get five to seven calls a day, but the very next day we had 20 to 30 calls because people were scared that abortion was illegal. And if it wasn't already illegal, they had questions about when it was going to be illegal.
They needed information about where they could go out of state to get their abortion — if we could fund their abortion — because they didn't want to run out of time. And then we had people calling wondering if they were still going to be able to go to their appointments at the clinic.
What does the legislation mean for your work at the Yellowhammer Fund?
Actually, if the legislation does go into effect in six months — if the court doesn't block it from taking effect because of the ACLU suit — then we will have to try to get people out of state to clinics where they can get legal abortion care. This won't actually be too much of a burden on us infrastructurally, because we already do get people out of state to go to certain clinics. We have practical support for people to go to the Feminist Women's Health Center in Atlanta. People who are having later abortions, we send them to DuPont [Clinic] in Washington, D.C. We also send folks to a clinic in Bethesda [Maryland] and Colorado.
We would just shift our work. We just wouldn't fund the clinics that are here in Alabama anymore. We would just fund additional clinics in other states and make sure that people who call us can travel there and pay for their procedures.
With the lawsuit pending, what can people be doing to make sure the momentum is not lost and that there is a long-term strategy for protecting access to abortion?
This whole experience has really made me happy because I feel like we are beginning to get re-energized. Before, people felt like we were getting a lot of losses, between the Mueller report, Kavanaugh, etc. People were tired of fighting all these fights that didn't seem like they were going anywhere. And I was so scared that this ban would go through and there wouldn't be an outcry, or people would feel defeated and like they couldn't do anything about it and just roll over. Because it's been so easy for everyone to roll over on abortion rights access.
Thankfully, this really pissed people off, and I think they responded because they were re-energized. They really see that there is an additional way that they can do this work and be involved in this fight against fascism or far-right politics that we are experiencing in the United States.
We don't grill them about how much money they make or if they have things they can sell, or how much their rent is, etc. We simply ask them how much they need. And one of the reasons we can do that is because we've done grassroots fundraising and we're not beholden to other people's values when it comes to who does and doesn't deserve money.
In addition to there being an electoral fight and a legal fight, there are also practical things that they can do to make the situation better for people on the ground now, regardless of what's going on electorally and legally — for instance, the mutual aid fund.
So I'm really excited that people are wanting to do more holistic work and work on all three of these things at once. We have people who are suing, doing the court work. We have people who are trying to get different people into office to make better policies. Then there are people like at our fund and our case managers who are trying to make sure that people can get their abortion today until we get the policies we need in place, or in spite of the policies we have in place.
Can you talk about the legacy of abortion rights activism that informs your work?
A lot of inspiration for my work is modeled after Laurie Bertram Roberts of the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund. She taught us how to do all of this.
I have a master's in women's studies, and I'm a student of Black feminism and women of color feminism, and I'm familiar with the history and legacy of reproductive justice activism. There is no one who embodies that legacy more than Laurie Bertram Roberts.
She taught us how to do this and continues to teach us how we can better support our callers. The model that she has is a very liberating model. And it's not a model that all abortion funds use. For us, it's about assessing our callers' needs. We ask them, "How much is your procedure? When is your procedure? How much do you need?"
We don't grill them about how much money they make, or if they have things they can sell, or how much their rent is, etc. We simply ask them how much they need. And one of the reasons we can do that is because we've done grassroots fundraising and we're not beholden to other people's values when it comes to who does and doesn't deserve money.
And that's hard, because we run out of money and then we have to tell people we have nothing, and we can't give them anything. But now, with the outpouring of support that we've gotten, I feel like we're not going to have to say no to a lot of people. We're very well set up from that outpouring of support that we've gotten, so we are going to definitely be able to fund more people than we did last year.
That's really amazing, because abortion is expensive and insurance doesn't cover abortions, Medicaid doesn't cover abortions, so we'll cover abortions until it does. Or if it never does, we'll do it.