In further defiance of the state’s decision to ban abortion after six weeks, the Atlanta City Council approved funding to support a reproductive rights organization.
In mid-May, in the wake of the leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Amplify Georgia Collaborative — which includes SisterSong, the Feminist Women’s Health Center, and New Georgia Project — drafted a petition calling on the city to create an abortion fund. On Monday, council members approved a resolution to donate $300,000 to Access for Reproductive Care Southeast — an organization providing financial and educational resources for women seeking abortions.
“If anybody says this is unprecedented, I would tell them it is. These are unprecedented times,” said District 5 council member Liliana Bakhtiari, who introduced the legislation. “People in elected positions like mine need to go above and beyond to ensure that lives are saved because … people are going to die.”
In addition to representing the majority of abortion cases in the state, Black people and Medicaid recipients make up the bulk of those reaching out to ARC-Southeast to get financial assistance for the procedure, according to interim director Jalessah Jackson.
Georgia Medicaid recipients, most of whom are Black, can’t use their insurance to access abortion unless in the case of rape, incest, or a life-threatening emergency. Otherwise, they’ll have to cover the cost of the procedure, which can cost upwards of $500.
Georgia is one of many states in the Southeast that has stringent abortion laws. Last month, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the state was allowed to enforce HB 481, which banned abortion after fetal cardiac activity is detected, typically around six weeks of pregnancy — before most realize they’re pregnant. Georgia does allow exceptions in the cases of incest and rape, but a police report must be filed.
“The SCOTUS decision, compounded by the decision on Georgia’s six-week ban, created a larger gap as it relates to access,” Jackson said. “ARC-Southeast is committed to filling that gap as best we can, and we are thrilled about the City Council decision that will allow us to continue connecting people to care by providing material support to folks seeking abortion care.”
The abortion fund isn’t the first move made by the Atlanta City Council in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that gave women the constitutional right to an abortion. In June, the Atlanta City Council quickly passed legislation banning public funds from investigating abortions that weren’t in compliance with the law. South Fulton followed suit.
Nea Walker was in attendance to see how the City Council voted on the resolution. Walker is an organizer with People 4 the People ATL, an organization founded by demonstrators who have previously come to the state Capitol building to demonstrate in response to state and federal decisions tied to abortion rights. Walker said Atlanta needs to place its financial priorities where the people are.
“They’re doing what they can by giving us that money, but they probably could give more,” she said.
Walker pointed out that a large chunk of the city’s $700 million-plus general fund goes to the police department, a fact that has drawn criticism from residents. “It’s like $235 million to the police. We need more money allocated towards the people, towards abortion rights, towards lifting up Black voices, and things like that.”
Allison Coffman, the executive director of Amplify Georgia, while thanking the City Council for the donation, noted that more money could go to health, including funds for the city’s plan to develop and open the Center for Diversion and Services in place of the Atlanta City Detention Center.
“Hopefully, this is the first of many steps,” Coffman said. “My hope is that other cities will also contribute funding in the same way that Atlanta is.”