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Reproductive Health

Atlanta Leaders and Local Activists Say More Is Needed to Support Abortion Fund

District 5 City Council member Liliana Bakhtiari is leading a charge to bring more financial support that will help Black birthing people receive care.

Protestors march and chant in downtown Atlanta in July 2022 in opposition to a Georgia law that bans the procedure after six weeks. A report found that the number of abortions per month in the state dropped by nearly half since the law went into effect. (Megan Varner/Getty Images)

The Atlanta City Council approved a resolution seeking more support from metro Atlanta counties for abortion services. 

On Wednesday, the council, led by District 5 representative Lilliana Bakhtiari, urged Atlanta’s executive branch to collaborate with neighboring counties to invest in abortion care. 

Last year, the council approved donating $300,000 to support ARC-Southeast, an organization providing financial and educational resources for residents seeking abortions. Bakhtiari says that with or without county support, she wants to send money to ARC-Southeast this year.

The resolution will be sent to the chief executives of Cobb, Cherokee, Clayton, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, and Rockdale counties. Bakhtiari says there have already been positive talks with officials in Fulton County to support the effort. A spokesperson for Fulton County told Capital B Atlanta she could not verify that information. 

Both efforts to bring more support for ARC-Southeast were done in direct response to HB 481, a state law that bans abortions once fetal cardiac activity is detected, which typically happens at around six weeks of pregnancy — before most women realize they’re pregnant.

“We’re still in a reproductive justice crisis, and the need for access to safe and legal abortion and reproductive health care has not gone down,” Bakhtiari told Capital B Atlanta. “It’s only gone up, because we know that when you make abortion illegal, you don’t stop abortion. … You just stop safe abortions.”

Allison Coffman, the executive director for the reproductive justice rights coalition Amplify Georgia Collaborative, says most people calling into ARC Southeast for abortion care are people of color. “The vast majority of those people are Black, and that is the case for just about all people accessing abortion care in Georgia,” she said.

Any abortion restriction would always have an outsized impact on Black birthing people in the state. Black women in Georgia seek out the majority of abortions, data shows. A 2023 study from the Center for Reproductive Health Research in the Southeast (RISE) at Emory University shows an estimated 88% of all abortions would likely be illegal under HB 481. That number rises to 90.4% for Black people seeking abortion. 

“When you live in a place like Georgia, where our maternal mortality is extremely high, medical resources are limited, [and] continue to be taken away from people, access to abortion for some people is going to be a life-or-death matter,” said Toni Watkins, the integrated voter engagement director at Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity.

“Community organizations are great and have a large role, but I do think that city and county governments doing something like the abortion [fund] is a step in the right direction,” she continued. “Because it’s providing access to a service that people within [marginalized] communities legitimately do need.” 

According to Coffman, ARC Southeast gave more than $400,000 to Georgians seeking abortion aid since Roe was overturned. She said that since Georgia’s abortion patients are accruing additional costs, like transportation and temporary housing costs for out-of-state procedures, budget shortfalls persist. 

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the number of Georgia abortions per month dropped by nearly half since Georgia’s six-week ban went into effect last year, just weeks after Roe was overturned. Abortions past six weeks plummeted, the report says, but saw a small bump when the ban was deemed unconstitutional by a Fulton County Superior Court judge in November. Just a week later, the Georgia Supreme Court said the ban could stay in effect while an appeal from the state is deliberated. No ruling has been issued. 

Atlanta is the largest city in Fulton, which is why Bakhtiari says the county should match its donation.

“We need to get more municipalities in the metro area also supporting this initiative,” Bakhtiari said. “And we also need the Fulton County Commission, and I would love to see the DeKalb County Commission also help fund this initiative.”