Posted in: Women

The Silver Lining Of America’s Most Excessive Abortion Ban

When Amanda Reyes thinks again on how she was radicalized, it most likely began with the IUD. In 2008, at 20 years outdated, Reyes was learning humanities on the College of Alabama and dealing half time on the campus Starbucks. Reyes, who was in a long-term relationship, wanted a dependable type of contraception. After researching on-line, she selected the Mirena, a copper IUD that may forestall being pregnant for as much as seven years. It was expensive, although, so for 3 months she ate solely peanut butter sandwiches and ramen noodles to save lots of up. 

When it got here time for her appointment on the college medical heart, issues didn’t go to plan. The male physician, Reyes recalled, was reluctant to do the process. What if her boyfriend needed her to get pregnant sooner? he requested. He left her within the examination room for hours, claiming issues along with her insurance coverage, Reyes mentioned, after which he took off for the day with out letting her know.

Reyes didn’t get her IUD. The college medical heart didn’t instantly reply to HuffPost’s request for remark.

The expertise was a wake-up name, she informed me over a Zoom name final month.

“This man – who had no thought what my life was like exterior that room – was making selections for me based mostly on what he thought was greatest,” Reyes mentioned. “It was ridiculous.”

Today, Reyes works to make sure that different persons are assured the company that she was denied as a school pupil. She runs the Yellowhammer Fund, an Alabama-based reproductive justice group that envisions “a society during which people and communities have autonomy in making wholesome decisions concerning their our bodies and their futures.” The fund, which helps individuals get hold of abortions, burst onto the nationwide stage in 2019 after Alabama enacted essentially the most excessive abortion ban within the nation.

Though a decide blocked the legislation earlier than it might go into impact, individuals who have been outraged by the ban and searching for a concrete strategy to get entangled flooded the comparatively unknown nonprofit with donations. Inside two weeks, the fund’s checking account swelled from a couple of thousand {dollars} to $2 million.

Abruptly, the scrappy nonprofit had the cash to dream huge. And it did. 

On Might 15, precisely one yr after the abortion ban was signed into legislation, the Yellowhammer fund bought the West Alabama Girls’s Middle, an abortion clinic that gives about half of the abortions within the state. So long as abortion remained authorized, individuals would have a assured place to get one, Reyes mentioned. On Aug. 1, she took on the position of clinic director. At 32, she is among the many youngest directors of an abortion clinic within the nation.

Reyes is a part of a brand new era of activists combating to enshrine reproductive rights of their communities. Their work comes at a time of heightened assaults from anti-abortion extremists who imagine the time is ripe to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court docket ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. Nonetheless, crusaders like Reyes assume it’s a mistake to focus their efforts solely on abortion. True reproductive freedom, they are saying, requires an intersectional method.

The West Alabama Girls’s Middle will quickly develop providers past abortion care and introduce well-person exams, contraceptives, STI testing and remedy, prenatal care and trans well being providers.

The Makings Of An Activist

Reyes, who’s Latina, was born in a tiny city in Texas to teenage dad and mom. She has thought at size about how her mom might have had an abortion if she needed — it was the ’80s and abortion was pretty out there within the space — however had determined to boost her as a substitute.

“My mother’s expertise actually informs my perspective,” Reyes mentioned. “It’s best to have the selection to do no matter it’s that you simply wish to do, and try to be supported in that alternative.” 

When Reyes went off to varsity in Alabama, she was launched to the idea of reproductive justice in a category taught by Brittney Cooper, an creator and knowledgeable in Black feminist thought. Coined within the 1990s by a bunch of Black girls, the time period “reproductive justice” refers to an intersectional framework that positions reproductive rights inside social, political and financial contexts. Whereas the mainstream reproductive rights motion targeted on a girl’s proper to decide on, reproductive justice proponents argued that for a lot of marginalized individuals with out the cash or sources to entry abortion, there was no actual alternative in any respect.

Reyes realized this firsthand after she started volunteering as a clinic escort on the West Alabama Girls’s Middle, an abortion clinic in Tuscaloosa. There, she met girls who have been turned away as a result of they have been too far alongside — they hadn’t had the means to make it to the clinic earlier. She additionally noticed individuals who would have gone by means of with their pregnancies if solely they might have afforded to boost children.

In 2016, with the election of President Donald Trump, Reyes determined she needed to do extra. She based the Yellowhammer Fund, a nonprofit that helps individuals overcome the logistical and monetary obstacles holding them from getting abortions. It additionally capabilities as a reproductive justice group, providing help to pregnant individuals in no matter type they want.

“We wish to make it possible for individuals can get abortion care after they want it,” Reyes mentioned. “However we additionally acknowledge that a variety of these individuals could be making completely different decisions if that they had extra sources out there to them.” 

“You should have the choice to do whatever it is that you want to do, and you should be supported in that choice,&rdquo

“It’s best to have the selection to do no matter it’s that you simply wish to do, and try to be supported in that alternative,” mentioned Amanda Reyes, pictured above contained in the West Alabama Girls’s Middle.

Shot Into The Highlight

In Might 2019, Alabama’s Republican governor, Kay Ivey, signed the Human Life Safety Act into legislation. It banned abortion in almost all circumstances and threatened docs who carried out the process with felony prices and as much as 99 years in jail. 

The laws was quickly blocked by a decide, however not earlier than it triggered mass outrage throughout the nation. For individuals craving to take motion, donating to the Yellowhammer Fund emerged as a viable choice. By the tip of the yr, the group had amassed $3.35 million.

Like many nonprofits newly flooded with money, the group quickly got here below scrutiny for the way it was managing its cash. In 2019, the group supplied greater than $250,000 to fund almost 1,100 abortions in Alabama. Nevertheless it additionally used cash to put money into different providers, similar to breastfeeding help and start doulas. 

To her detractors, Reyes counters that her group by no means hid its intentions to develop past primary abortion funding.

“As a result of we have been such a small group, individuals have been so keen to imagine that we both had no thought what we have been doing or that we have been benefiting from individuals and doing no matter with the cash,” she mentioned.

Jenice Fountain, an activist in Birmingham who gives sensible help to Black moms dwelling in poverty, recalled getting an surprising name from Reyes in 2019 saying the Yellowhammer Fund was donating $10,000 to help her work. 

On the time, Fountain was working a backpack drive, stocking college backpacks with provides for kids in want. She had by no means heard of the Yellowhammer Fund.

“One factor Amanda does extraordinarily properly is to be intersectional,” Fountain mentioned throughout a cellphone name with me. “She’s funding full-spectrum reproductive justice — and that features when you’ve got a toddler already.”

Fountain mentioned she admired Reyes’ dedication to studying from activists who’re on the bottom working with susceptible communities.

“Since we’ve been in touch, she’s at all times asking, ‘What do you want to tackle the problems in your space? What are your mothers’ wants? What can I do to assist?’” Fountain mentioned. “She listens.”

Reyes has additionally labored to deliver the views of trans and nonbinary individuals into Yellowhammer Fund’s work.  

“She was like, y’all come to the desk,” mentioned TC Caldwell, a trans activist working with TKO Society, a nonprofit that gives important help providers for LGBTQ individuals dwelling in Alabama. “As a result of our voices had been erased for therefore lengthy, she made certain there was room not just for TKO Society, however for individuals like me.”  

The Yellowhammer Fund donated condoms and emergency contraception to the TKO Society in order that they might give it to their purchasers without spending a dime, Caldwell added.

“You don’t actually understand the necessity till you provide it,” they mentioned. “Amanda understands reproductive justice is extra than simply entry to abortion — it’s holistic.”

In Might of this yr, the Yellowhammer Fund revealed its big-picture plans for abortion entry within the state when it bought the West Alabama Girls’s Middle. For Reyes, it was a kind of homecoming. It was the identical abortion clinic she had volunteered at as a school pupil.

Amanda Reyes, center, talks with medical team manager Alesia Horton, left, and office manager Chadric Jackson in the front of

Amanda Reyes, heart, talks with medical workforce supervisor Alesia Horton, left, and workplace supervisor Chadric Jackson within the entrance workplace on the West Alabama Girls’s Middle on June 5 in Tuscaloosa.

Working The Clinic 

Once I final spoke to Reyes, she was on the West Alabama Girls’s Middle, working in her workplace. As a girl in her early 30s, Reyes is considerably of an anomaly within the abortion world — the trade is dominated by growing older activists who bought into the reproductive rights motion many years in the past and by no means left. 

“There hasn’t been a pipeline of mentorship that has allowed many individuals below 50 to tackle these roles,” Reyes mentioned. “This can be a drawback with our motion and who we think about ‘the fitting individuals’ to tackle management roles, but additionally an issue with entry to cash.” Younger individuals typically don’t have entry to the community of donors and buyers wanted to tackle the monetary dangers that include working an abortion clinic, she added.

Gloria Grey, the earlier proprietor of the West Alabama Girls’s Middle, had lengthy needed to retire however struggled to search out the fitting purchaser. Then got here the Yellowhammer Fund.

“We had the chance. We had the sources,” Reyes mentioned. “And what higher means is there to enhance abortion entry within the state than to really have a hand in offering these abortions?”

Proudly owning and working an abortion clinic is exceedingly troublesome work, particularly in states which can be hostile towards reproductive rights. Clinic employees should battle anti-abortion protesters, state efforts to limit entry to abortion, fixed litigation and stigma from inside the neighborhood. It may also be harmful. Violence at abortion clinics is on the rise, in keeping with a report by the Nationwide Abortion Federation, knowledgeable affiliation of abortion suppliers. In 2019, members of NAF reported a rise in intimidation ways, invasions and different actions aimed toward disrupting providers.

The Very Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, who serves as president and CEO of NAF, mentioned she was excited for Reyes to take a management place.

“Having younger individuals transferring into possession and administration is a superb factor to see for these of us who hope sometime to have the ability to retire,” she mentioned. 

Reyes was already getting a way for a way arduous it was going to be as administrator by the point we spoke. The coronavirus was sweeping the state, and at her clinic, anti-abortion protesters amassed exterior, not carrying face masks and violating social distancing pointers.

She described how protesters have been filming her employees performing well being security protocols with sufferers earlier than they entered the clinic. Anti-abortion activists usually gathered proof they believed may very well be used towards the clinic and filed complaints with the state, Reyes mentioned. She knew that the pandemic gave them ammunition, and he or she was doing all the things she might to make sure the clinic would stay open. 

Due to the fixed scrutiny, “we have now to have a greater and stricter protocol than anybody else,” she mentioned. “However meaning we see much less individuals, and it’s much more troublesome to get an abortion.”

Reyes has formidable plans for the way forward for the clinic. She additionally has assist. 

In August, the West Alabama Girls’s Middle introduced that it had a brand new medical director: Leah Torres, an OB-GYN who’s unapologetic about her abortion activism. Torres will substitute Dr. Louis Payne, who’s in his 80s. With Torres on the helm, the clinic will introduce full-spectrum reproductive and sexual well being providers, together with well-person exams, contraceptives, STI testing, prenatal care and trans well being providers, the clinic mentioned in a press launch.

Reyes’ imaginative and prescient of making a complete reproductive well being care heart is lastly coming into fruition.

“I wish to make the clinic much more patient-focused proper than it already is,” she mentioned. “We will construct towards offering empowering well being care to individuals.”