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Alabama Reproductive Rights Nonprofit Buys One of the State’s Few Abortion Clinics to Keep It Open

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A reproductive rights nonprofit organization in Alabama has purchased an abortion clinic in the state, claiming it wants to maintain access to reproductive healthcare services as legislators aim to restrict them.

The Yellowhammer Fund, which is based in west Alabama, announced the purchase of the West Alabama Women’s Center on May 15, saying they wanted to protect the clinic from closure or from ownership that may aim to restrict abortion access.

“West Alabama Women’s Center has been a hub for abortion access for nearly three decades, and we want to be sure it remains so for as long as abortion is legal in the state,” the group said. “That is why we have acquired the clinic ourselves, allowing the founder, Gloria Gray, to finally retire without any concerns that the clinic will fall into the hands of abortion opponents or otherwise be closed.”

The organization says it has always aspired to run a clinic in the state.

“Operating a clinic is something we wanted to do as a fund from the time that we started originally,” Amanda Reyes, the executive director of the Tuscaloosa-based Yellowhammer Fund told the Montgomery Advertiser.

Gray founded the clinic in 1993 and she’s operated it ever since. The clinic will operate normally, but will be under new leadership. The Yellowhammer Fund did not respond to TIME’s request for comment.

The purchase came just a year after Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill that banned all abortions in the state. However, a federal judge blocked the law from going into effect and it’s currently being challenged in court, according to the Associated Press.

After Ivey signed the abortion ban into law last year, Reyes told the Associated Press that Yellowhammer Fund received massive donations from all over the country. These donations allowed the organization to purchase the clinic.

Southern states tend to have more restrictive abortion laws, according to Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research and policy organization. In the first quarter of 2019, 28 states in the country introduced some kind of abortion ban. As the coronavirus pandemic began to spread through the country, some states have tried to use the health crisis as a way to block women from getting abortions, including Alabama, which currently only has three clinics in the state.

“Today, abortion is still completely available in clinics without fear of prosecution,” the organization said in its statement. “And hopefully, one year from now, West Alabama Women’s Center will be the full services reproductive health site we have always dreamed existed in the state.”

In Yellowhammer Fund’s statement, they said they hoped to increase access and the types of services offered to include trans healthcare.

“We are looking forward to expanding services there and helping Alabamians access a full range of reproductive healthcare services – including trans healthcare – within the next year,” the statement said.

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Write to Josiah Bates at josiah.bates@time.com