A collective of reproductive and voting rights groups is calling on the city of Atlanta to create an abortion fund. Their push might’ve just led to change.
In partnership with Access for Reproductive Care-Southeast, the Amplify Georgia Collaborative — which includes SisterSong, the Feminist Women’s Health Center, and New Georgia Project — created a petition in mid-May in the wake of the leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade. The message from the collective called on city leadership to bring resources to vulnerable communities.
The move comes as states and cities grapple with the fallout from the Supreme Court overturning Roe, which had given women the constitutional right to choose abortion.
“Even with Roe, abortion care was too expensive, too far away, and too stigmatized for many Georgians to access,” the collaborative said in a statement. “This fund will support those accessing care in Atlanta, and Atlantans who now need to travel out of state to access abortion care due to abortion restrictions and bans.”
Cost is one of the factors that can prohibit equitable abortion access. In Georgia, public funds can be used for abortions only in the case of a life-threatening emergency, rape, or incest. That means people who use Medicaid, most of whom are Black, would have to cover the full cost of their abortion if their situation falls outside of those three exceptions. An abortion can cost, on average, nearly $560, according to Allison Coffman, director of Amplify Georgia.
In response to the push from the collective, Atlanta District 5 Councilwoman Liliana Bakhtiari introduced a resolution that would make a $300,000 donation from the general budget, on behalf of the city, to ARC-Southeast. The organization has a hotline set up for residents seeking safe access to abortions.
“This is giving money to a Black female-led organization that is going to be able to help the people impacted most by this, which we know are going to be people of color first,” Bakhtiari said.
Jalessah Jackson, the interim executive director of ARC-Southeast, says a majority of the people who already request help from their organization are Black, uninsured, or use Medicaid.
“Given that Atlanta is leading the nation in income inequality, and affordable housing is nearly impossible, we anticipate an abortion fund will help us meet the needs of those callers who have to decide between their abortion and their rent,” Jackson said.
Georgia has one of the country’s most restrictive abortion bans in HB 481, a state law that would ban abortion once fetal cardiac activity is detected, which typically happens at around six weeks of pregnancy — before most women realize they’re pregnant. The ban was signed in 2019 by Gov. Brian Kemp, but a federal lawsuit in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals put the legislation on hold for now.
The move to create an abortion fund isn’t the first action taken by the City Council in response to the decision to overturn Roe. Just days before the historic ruling, the council passed a resolution which called on law enforcement to deprioritize investigations for abortions. Other local cities have taken similar actions.
Currently, abortions are legal up to 22 weeks in Georgia, about five months into the gestation process. Studies show the 22-week ban led to more early abortions for Black women.
“As a health care hub in the South, Atlanta has the ability to influence and lead the way of many other cities,” Coffman said. “So it’s also my hope that funding support and other bills that we’re working on here in Atlanta will similarly make their ways through other progressive cities in Georgia and across the South.”