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Abortion Fund Sues Alabama Attorney General After He Threatens Criminal Prosecution for Helping Abortion Seekers Leave the State

Those who provide aid in helping people access their rights are heroes in protecting civil liberties

07.31.23 – (PRESS RELEASE) Today the Yellowhammer Fund asked a federal court to prevent the Alabama Attorney General from making good on his threats to criminalize people that help pregnant Alabamians leave the state to access legal abortion. 

The Attorney General’s threats specifically target helpers like the Yellowhammer Fund, an organization that seeks to resume providing funding and practical support to pregnant Alabamians who are forced to leave their home state and often travel hundreds of miles to access legal abortion care.  Even though Alabama has no power to criminalize lawful activity that takes place in other states, the consequences of the Attorney General’s threats are significant and have forced Yellowhammer Fund to stop operating its abortion fund due to fear of prosecution.

People and organizations that provide aid in helping people exercise rights are often the unsung heroes of protecting civil rights.  Those who participated in the Freedom Rides in Alabama were helpers as were the publishers of The Green Book.  Organizations like the Yellowhammer Fund are helpers in the battle for reproductive justice.

“Today, we filed this lawsuit in the courthouse next to the Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery, Alabama challenging the State’s efforts to restrict travel for abortion care.  The symbolism is not lost on us,” said Jenice Fountain, Executive Director at the Yellowhammer Fund.

 “Abortion funds do more than simply provide aid. They send a message of solidarity to those who are persecuted by the State of Alabama for seeking to control their reproductive health. That message is both that our humanity and dignity are interconnected and that the State’s efforts to isolate and oppress pregnant people cannot break that bond. The attorney general objects to that message and has targeted us and those who wish to help pregnant people leave the state for lawful abortion care.”

The need for abortion funding and support has only increased since the fall of Roe, particularly in Alabama.  Abortion is banned in Alabama, the state has the third highest maternal mortality rate in the country, and Alabama is the sixth poorest state in the country.  In 2021, before abortion was even banned in the state, nearly two thousand people traveled out of state to obtain needed abortion care.  These burdens fall most heavily on Black people and communities of color, people who also face a heightened risk of criminalization.    

The Attorney General’s threats violate Yellowhammer Fund’s constitutional rights to free expression, association, travel, and due process and intrude on the sovereignty of states where abortion is legal.  This is the second civil rights lawsuit filed this month challenging a state’s efforts to infringe upon the right to travel for abortion care; the first challenges an Idaho law that criminalizes assistance to young people seeking abortion care  without parental knowledge.

Yellowhammer Fund is represented by the Lawyering Project and the Southern Poverty Law Center.  

A similar case was filed in the Middle District of Alabama today by the ACLU on behalf of West Alabama Women’s Center, Dr. Yashica Robinson, and Alabama Women’s Center.