The director of the Yellowhammer Fund, a non-profit that provides financial assistance for abortions in Alabama, said she was considering shutting down the organization amid financial worry before Alabama passed a law banning near all abortions in the state in May 2019 .
One year later, after an influx of more than $2 million in donations from across the country in the immediate aftermath of the ban and the support of 1,200 monthly financially sustaining members, the fund now owns and operates the West Alabama Women’s Center, one of three of remaining abortion clinics in the state.
Amanda Reyes, who founded the organization in 2017, said in many ways Alabama legislators’ attempt to ban abortion in Alabama helped them to pay for more procedures.
“Their stunts meant that we could fund abortions for a long time in Alabama to come and improve abortion access,” Reyes said. “And I think this just shows that the stuff that they tried took hold and backfired for us in an amazing way.”
Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law in May 2019, banning all abortion in Alabama except for those performed if the mother is in medical danger. The ACLU of Alabama and Planned Parenthood Southeast sued the state of Alabama shortly after the ban was signed. It was halted from going into effect in Nov. 2019 by United States District Court Judge Myron Thompson until the ban played out in litigation in a higher court.
The initial money raised by Yellowhammer Fund would be enough to pay for nearly two-thirds of the average number of abortions in Alabama, which totaled about 6,000 in 2018. At the end of 2019 donations to the fund totaled $3.35 million, $250,000 of which funded 1,100 abortions in Alabama.
Reyes founded the West Alabama Clinic Defenders, a volunteer clinic escort organization, in 2015 while she was a student at the University of Alabama. She donned the trademark rainbow vests indicative of the reproductive rights movement and guided patients past graphic signs made by anti-abortion rights protestors to ensure they made it safely in and out of the clinic.
Now, she runs the same clinic.
“[Reproductive] healthcare [resources] are really necessary for people and because where we live in Alabama, a lot of those healthcare services are not available to people,” Reyes said. “And so they go without; and when people go without [those resources], they can have worse health care outcomes down the road.”
Reyes said this is the first time, to her knowledge, an abortion fund has purchased a healthcare clinic that provides abortions. Reyes said this is due in part because of the forced “scrappy” nature of being in the reproductive justice movement.
“The people who do reproductive justice work have always been the people who have not been inside the mainstream of these movements because ‘They don’t have the right training,’ ‘They didn’t go to the right schools,’ ‘They didn’t go to the right programs,’ ‘They didn’t grow up in the right places.’ And because of that, they also know what it means to live a real and complicated life and to see how all of these issues that we talked about when we talk about reproductive justice fit together and how they intersect with things like abortion access.”
Reyes said the transition from the previous owner of the Tuscaloosa clinic has gone smoothly and the staff has been supportive of the change. She said she plans to broaden the clinic’s mission to serve as a reproductive justice center for the community, including providing gynecological care, hormone therapy for transgender patients, and midwifery and doula care, among other things. Under Reyes’ direction the clinic now offers three months of free birth control and two emergency contraceptive pills for every patient that walks through the doors.
“It’s a really great opportunity for all of us to be able to take care of our community,” Reyes said. “We have been given the opportunity to really invest in our communities.”