Advocates want Atlanta to dedicate funds for abortion access

Abortion supporters want City Council to step up a year after the state’s strict law went into effect.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Abortion rights advocates are asking Atlanta City Council to step up their support for abortion access a year after women’s reproductive rights were stripped in Georgia and across the country.

In the spring of 2022, the Supreme Court overturned half-a-century of abortion rights enshrined under the landmark case Roe v. Wade. The decision paved the way for Georgia’s strict abortion law — which prohibits abortions around 6 weeks of pregnancy — to go into effect after being caught up in legal challenges since 2019.

The conservative crackdown on abortion prompted the city’s Democratic leaders to make Atlanta the first city in the region to directly fund abortion with a donation of $300,000 to Access Reproductive Care Southeast last year. The nonprofit helps pregnant people pay for abortions, including out-of-state travel and childcare expenses.

Advocates are asking council members to increase that donation to $500,000 and dedicate those funds annually as part of the upcoming budget.

Access Reproductive Care Southeast is the only abortion fund in Georgia. And despite the additional funding last year from the city, the group closes its helpline early each month due to a lack of resources, said Allison Coffman, executive director of Amplify Georgia, a coalition of reproductive health organizations.

Since Georgia’s strict abortion ban went into effect, Coffman said, abortions in the state have fallen 50%.

“This means the majority of Georgians trying to access abortion care are now having to travel out of the state,” she said during a budget hearing. “Callers are reaching out to ARC not just for help to cover their abortion procedure, but for gas money, for airfare, (and) for lodging, food and childcare for multiple nights.”

Since the Supreme Court’s decision to dissolve abortion rights, ARC has distributed more than $421,000 to support 1,240 Georgians having abortions, according to the organization. But the helpline’s total costs for the year were more than $1.5 million.

Conservative lawmakers across the country rushed to limit abortion rights after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization reversed a nationwide guarantee of abortion rights and tossed the decision on the issue back to the states . All the states bordering Georgia have a range of restrictive abortion laws.

The patchwork of abortion policies creates an array of obstacles for women seeking abortions all while restrictive laws disproportionately hurt marginalized communities, advocates and experts say — particularly Black women who face higher rates of maternal mortality.

Council member Liliana Bakhtiari introduced the legislation for the city’s first contribution to the abortion fund in 2022 and led a council effort to combat the state’s law by instructing the Atlanta Police Department to treat abortion violations as the “lowest possible priority.”

Bakhtiari said she will introduce a resolution next week in an effort to get Fulton County involved. Under her proposal, the city of Atlanta would promise to dedicate at least $300,000 again for a second year and match any money the county contributes to the fund.

“(The resolution) is to encourage Fulton County to join us in creating this abortion fund,” she said.

Olivia Harrison, a DeKalb County resident who recently moved from Atlanta, said that her first time speaking to City Council was last year when she advocated for them to donate the first $300,000 to abortion access.

“Since I made my plea last year, nothing has changed in Georgia,” she said. “Working people in Atlanta and across the Southeast are still struggling to access reproductive care.”