Abortion Funds in the Deep South Need Help Now More Than Ever

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Culture & Conversation Abortion

Abortion Funds in the Deep South Need Help Now More Than Ever

Laurie Bertram Roberts

In the post-Roe weeks, we’ve felt the love for abortion seekers in the Deep South. But will you still love us in the days, weeks, and months ahead?

For more on a post-Roe world, check out our special edition.

There’s this old song written by the Carole King, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.” It was recorded and released by the Shirelles in 1960—but I heard it for the first time years later, when I was a kid growing up in the evangelical church.

Like most fundie kids, I wasn’t allowed to listen to secular music. But my mom kept a secret stash of Motown, doo-wop, and girl group records under her bed. And every week, as I cleaned the house, sweet harmonies would echo through the halls.

“Is this a lasting treasure, or just a moment’s pleasure … Will you still love me tomorrow?”

I’ve been thinking about those lyrics a lot lately—not because of any drama in my own love life, but because of what’s happening in the reproductive justice world as we reckon with the end of Roe v. Wade.

Roe is gone. The chaos is just beginning.

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As the executive director of Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund, and former longtime executive director of Yellowhammer Fund—two of only a few abortion funds and broad-based reproductive justice organizations in the Deep South—I’ve seen a much-needed outpouring of support over the past few weeks from coastal liberals, sparked to action by the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion indicating that the end of Roe was imminent—and then renewed again, over a month and a half later, as the draft opinion became an official ruling.

Don’t get me wrong—I appreciate the support. As we reckon with this new world, a world without Roe, abortion activists across the South will need all the support we can get—financial, legal, and otherwise.

But to borrow a phrase from Carole King, I have to wonder: Will you still love us tomorrow?

I know y’all are down right now. I feel the love and support, and I’m grateful for it. It is so nice. In fact, in these moments of increased support, it’s easy for people like me to get caught up in the whirlwind of it all. It’s easy to focus on the media appearances and donations and messages and find yourself drowning in love—not having time, in truth, to make proper use of all the love.

But even as that whirlwind continues, our new reality is setting in. The protections Roe granted have been declared “egregiously wrong,” and abortion rights have already materially rolled back in nearly half of our country. “Trigger” laws have gone into effect in more than a dozen states, and abortion providers may soon be threatened with felony charges by laws that brand us as criminals for providing basic reproductive care.

Long after the whirlwind dies down, these laws will still be on the books. So, my question is, will you stay vigilant?

When your timelines are no longer filled with photos of rallies and protest signs, will you remain in solidarity? When the news cycle has moved on to the next crisis of the day, will you still speak out for abortion rights? When poor Black women, disabled people, and those struggling with addiction across the South are criminalized en masse for making crucial decisions about our bodies and lives, will you defend us? Or will you retreat to a liberal haven that, for now, still upholds your rights?

In other words, six months from now—one year from now—when abortion is next to impossible in the places we call home, what will you do?

Because in order to defeat the Christian theocracy that, after decades of far-right strategic organizing, is ascendant today, we need sustained, intersectional partnership from our coastal allies—not fleeting moments in the spotlight.

We need partnership to sustain the blows to come, to reopen our doors to all, to give the lifesaving, life-giving gift of abortion to whoever needs it, whenever they need it.

We need individual donors to direct their funds not to the national organizations that parachute in when it suits their interests but to the organizers on the ground who do this work daily.

We need district attorneys to reject unjust laws and refuse to prosecute the people who get abortions or the physicians who provide them. Nearly 100 prosecutors across the country have already bravely vowed not to enforce these laws, and many more must join them—must embody courage and place the lives of countless pregnant people over their individual careers.

We need coastal institutions with bigger budgets and more resources not to approach these issues from an ivory tower but to trust in our leadership and expertise in our own lived experience—to be not controllers but comrades in this fight. We need them to build out the infrastructure we’ve created, to scale up the solutions we’re already offering, to follow our lead as the fight changes and the consequences accelerate, in frequency and kind.

And above all, we need an end to the ideological handcuffs of respectability and civility. We need those who believe in choice in the abstract not to scoff at the pregnant person who uses drugs or look down on third-trimester abortions. We need to rid ourselves of the oppressive “perfect victim” trope, and in its place, commit to unconditional, unconstrained autonomy—for all people across race, class, gender, and nationality.

The truth is, we need a radical, expansive, intersectional movement in order to survive this regime. And we need it to be centered here in the Deep South, where we face the most dangerous and grim realities of the post-Roe world.

These harsh realities have already begun. To comply with the law—and protect the safety and security of our staff and community—Yellowhammer Fund has been forced to temporarily pause services. So for now, its doors are shut. But struggling abortion funds will never admit defeat—not today, not tomorrow, not ever. We will continue to serve the Deep South, to demand the full rights of personhood to which we are entitled. And our struggle will be smoother if we have allies and co-conspirators we can actually depend on for the long haul.

Perhaps I’m being harsh. After all, it’s true that all people who can become pregnant will suffer in a world that views them as mere vessels for procreation, rather than full human beings—and in fact, all Americans suffer when our rights to privacy and autonomy are violated, eroded, and stripped back.

What’s more, to hear some tell it, all press is good press—and small funds like ours should be grateful for what we can get as the media cycle shifts, like a passing breeze, in our direction.

But I’ve been in this fight for decades now. I’ve been caught up in the whirlwind of the Overton window before, only to be let down when the next tragedy strikes and the cameras turn their lenses away. And I’ve seen the damage that comes with parachute philanthropy and broken promises and empty commitments—the overdraft fees and overnight buses our patients will face, regardless of whether someone many miles away tweets on their behalf. I’ve seen the consequences firsthand.

So no, I don’t think it’s too much to ask: Is your love a love we can be sure of? Can we count on you to be in this for the long haul, side by side with our communities?

Those of us on the front lines of the battle for bodily autonomy are ready and willing to partner. In fact, we need partnership to sustain the blows to come, to reopen our doors to all, to give the lifesaving, life-giving gift of abortion to whoever needs it, whenever they need it.

We just want to know that your love will last ‘til tomorrow—and through the long months and years ahead. Please don’t let us down.