The Yellowhammer Fund envisions a society in which reproductive decisions are made free from coercion, shame, or state interference, a society in which individuals and communities have autonomy in making healthy choices regarding their bodies and their futures. We commit ourselves to community education and empowerment, policy advocacy, and the development of systems of mutual aid to ensure that our friends, families, and neighbors never go without the things they need.
Abortion should be free and easily accessible. Being forced to continue a pregnancy and give birth is a trauma no one should have to endure. Medicaid and all other forms of insurance should cover 100% of the costs of abortion as a means of preventive care. Congress needs to repeal the Hyde Amendment and create a universal health care system where abortion has 100% coverage. The state of Alabama needs to repeal the “trigger law” that would make abortion illegal in Alabama if Roe v. Wade is overturned, TRAP laws that make providing abortions unnecessarily difficult, laws that ban providers from prescribing pill-based abortion methods via telemedicine, and expand Medicaid access to more Alabamians and cover 100% of the cost of abortion with state Medicaid funds. Abortion, in some form, should be available at all clinics receiving federal or state dollars to provide healthcare services to low- and no-income persons.
Almost 7,000 Alabama residents had abortions in 2017. National studies tell us that 1 in 4 “women” (people with the capacity to become pregnant) will have at least one abortion before age 45. Abortion is a common, normal part of reproductive healthcare. Abortion stigma is expressed in myriad ways. At its worst, abortion stigma fuels violence targeted at abortion clinics, their staff, volunteer clinic defenders, and patients. However, there are nominal forms of abortion stigma that also do intense harm. Characterizing abortion as a “tough decision,” “last resort,” or needing to be “safe, legal, but rare” insinuates that there is something that makes abortion exceptional. This kind of thinking makes it easier for lawmakers to pass legislation chipping away at abortion access, which creates unnecessary barriers that most acutely affect those most marginalized in our society. Abortion stigma is also bad for the mental health of pregnant people. When considering abortion, stigma keeps them from discussing their health situation and thought processes with friends, family, and loved ones for fear of being harmed or rejected. We need to know that the people in our lives have our backs when we consult them about our feelings and decisions. Abortion stigma, in all of its expressions, alienates people from their communities and implies that pregnant people should only have rights over their bodies in a limited set of circumstances.
Contraceptives, including medication and prophylactic devices, are an essential part of preventing and planning pregnancy. Medication contraceptives, including Plan B, should be available over the counter, without a prescription, and regardless of the religious beliefs of employers, pharmacists, or retailer staff. Medicaid and all insurance plans should cover 100% of the costs of all forms of contraception. Clinics receiving federal or state dollars to provide healthcare services to low- and no-income persons should provide, without cost to the client, the full range of contraceptive options and culturally-competent and patient-focused counseling regarding contraceptive options.
The education Alabama students receive about bodies, sex, sexuality, and reproduction is anti-sex, sexist, homophobic, and medically inaccurate. Abstinence-only education shames youth for a common practice among all people and increases their risk of negative sexual health outcomes and unintended pregnancies. Characterizing youth who have sex outside “lawful marriage” as lacking ethics or “self control” perpetuates a double standard whereby youth whose sexuality is more visible because of pregnancy or rumor are stigmatized. The requirement that public school students learn that “homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public” and illegal under Alabama law is inaccurate and should not be part of any fact-based educational program. Alabama students deserve medically-accurate, comprehensive, and unbiased sex education that is affirming to their sexualities, genders, and sense of autonomy.
In Alabama, pregnant people face barriers impeding their right to access all forms of healthcare. The state of Alabama’s refusal to expand Medicaid access and the steady closure of local hospitals and clinics means that a large number of pregnant people are going without the prenatal, birth, and postnatal care needed to ensure healthy pregnancies and birth outcomes. As a result, the state of Alabama reported a maternal mortality rate of 12 per 1,000 births (Black women were 3 times as likely to die as a result of pregnancy than white women) in 2015 and infant mortality rates from 2016 show that Alabama’s infant mortality rate is 9.1 per 1,000 births (Black infants were more than 2 times more likely to die than white infants). We call on the state of Alabama to expand Medicaid access and to extend 100% Medicaid coverage for fertility, doula, and wifery services.
Lyman, Brian “Bentley takes tougher tone on Medicaid expansion under Obamacare” Montgomery Advertiser (15 Dec 2013).
Maron, Dina F. “Maternal Health Care Is Disappearing in Rural America” Scientific American (15 Feb 2017)
Alabama Center for Health Statistics “Alabama Vital Statistics 2015” Table 36 at page 44
More information regarding the much greater rate of maternal mortality among Black women compared to white women in the United States is discussed in this publication by the Center for Reproductive Rights: https://www.reproductiverights.org/sites/crr.civicactions.net/files/documents/USPA_MH_TO_ResearchBrief_Final_5.16.pdf .
Criminalization of Pregnancy
Between 2006 and 2015, 479 people living in Alabama were prosecuted for using drugs while pregnant. Alabama’s chemical endangerment of a child law (§26-15-3.2) was designed to punish people making drugs in homes where children lived. However, district attorneys, empowered by then-Judge Roy Moore, interpreted this statute to apply to pregnant persons who used drugs. While using drugs during pregnancy does not seem to be a healthy choice, imprisoning pregnant people who use drugs and separating them from their children is not a healthy situation either. Alabama prisons are overcrowded and access to quality food, exercise, and the healthcare and resources necessary to manage a pregnancy are not available. Chemical endangerment laws also contribute to Alabama’s high rates of maternal and infant mortality, because, rather than deterring drug use during pregnancy, these laws scare those who use drugs from seeking addiction care, prenatal care, and resources to manage their pregnancy. We demand the immediate repeal of Alabama’s chemical endangerment laws, the immediate release of all those imprisoned under these laws, and that charges stemming from these laws be vacated.
Barriers to clinic access caused by cost, abortion stigma, and over-regulation of abortion providers make it necessary for some pregnant people to end their pregnancies themselves. The invention of pill-based abortions has made that process much safer for people who can access the medications, but an FDA investigation of online provider Aid Access may jeopardize the availability of this method. Additionally, laws prohibiting the provision of abortion services outside of a licensed clinic have been misapplied to prosecute pregnant people in Alabama who were thought to have caused themselves to miscarry. No one should be punished for not being able to access a legal abortion that they wanted. We believe that a repeal of the Hyde Amendment, a repeal of Alabama’s “trigger law” and chemical endangerment laws, and immediate Medicaid expansion in our state and free universal healthcare would all increase access to legal abortions and protect pregnant people who need other types of abortion care from politically-motivated prosecutors.
Access to Healthcare
Our individual sexual and reproductive health and the health of our families and communities depends on unencumbered access to the full range of health care services. By refusing to expand Medicaid eligibility in Alabama, our state caused the closure of 12 hospitals since 2011 and the disappearance of healthcare providers in both urban and rural areas. This means that it is harder for people with no insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare to get affordable care close to where they live. People are developing illnesses and unduly suffering negative health effects from conditions that would be easily preventable and treatable if access in the form of insurance coverage and local health care providers were prioritized by our state. We demand that the state of Alabama expand Medicaid access and that our policymakers at the state and federal level advocate for universal health care for everyone living in the United States.