In 2011, three women in Athens, Georgia – Betty Barnard, April Greene, and Kelly Wegel came together with the shared belief that all people should have access to healthcare. They lived in Northeast Georgia, an area with a high level of poverty and no abortion clinics.
For low-income people, trying to get to the nearest abortion clinic in Atlanta (often between two to three hours away at a minimum) makes getting an abortion almost impossible. Betty, April, and Kelly knew they had to make abortion accessible to people in Northeast Georgia. As a result, the Georgia Reproductive Justice Access Network (GRJAN) was founded with the goal of helping low-income people access abortion care through small financial grants and volunteer practical support.
Since GRJAN's founding in 2011, the organization expanded their service area to include anyone in the Southeast traveling to the Feminist Women's Health Center in Atlanta for an abortion and increased their funding from $100 a week to $150 a week to client(s) to cover the cost. They also provided transportation, housing and more through a network of dedicated volunteers.
In 2015, after deep self-examination and careful consideration, the board of directors voted unanimously to change the organizations name from GRJAN to the Magnolia Fund. The Magnolia - a strong, long-lasting and distinctly southern flower - signifies our steadfast dedication to supporting people in making the reproductive health decisions that are best for them. It also speaks to our unique work in the Southeast, an area of the country that is deeply rooted in community, supporting each other, and taking care of our own.
When considering our name change, it was important for us to acknowledge that although GRJAN had worked hard to increase access to abortion care in the Southeast, we had not done enough to de-center ourselves as primarily white, middle-class, cisgender women. We were co-opting the name of a movement that was by and for women of color.
We believe this name change reflects our values as an organization and further encourages us to continue our work, but also support the reproductive justice framework and acknowledging our privilege.
From board member and founder April:
"When we started building this organization in 2011, we understood the limitations of a pro-choice framework concerned with just the legality of abortion for individual women. We wanted our work to extend beyond the right to abortion and tackle issues of access tied intimately to race, class and gender identity; we wanted to help build a world in which everyone has access to all reproductive choices. For our founders, the name was aspirational--we would do the work necessary to be a true reproductive justice organization, and our name would reflect that.
Although we’ve worked hard to make access a reality for southerners through our network, our board of directors hasn’t done enough to decenter ourselves as primarily white, middle class, cisgender women.
Through our name, we’ve positioned the organization as part of the reproductive justice movement without making space for the women of color who created the movement to lead this work. Those most impacted by reproductive oppression should be at the center of our organization, but we haven’t taken the steps necessary to prioritize their voices.
In short, we feel we’ve co-opted a movement built by and for women of color and in doing so, contributed to the very real injustices the reproductive justice framework was created to address. We can’t continue to do that if we truly believe in the values of reproductive justice.
Does this mean we are no longer committed to the reproductive justice framework? Absolutely not. We still believe that reproductive justice is necessary to ensure all folks have the right to have children, to not have children and to parent their children in safe environments. This transition is part of our commitment to build meaningful, authentic relationships with the thriving RJ community in our home city of Atlanta and use our privilege to support that important work.
Our pledge to you:
In changing our name, we are pledging today to walk the RJ walk instead of simply talking the RJ talk. This means:
We will step back and make room at the table for women of color leaders.
We will do more to engage the people we’ve served with funding and practical support, and create a space in which they feel safe and valued contributing to the the organization.
We will continue our work to make all reproductive choices accessible throughout the southeast by providing grants and support to those who can’t afford abortion care or birth control and developing a full spectrum doula program to help folks through all reproductive experiences.
Thank you for your support in this transition! Together we're creating a region where everyone has the power to make the reproductive health decisions that are best for them."
We appreciate your support and look forward to working with you to make everyone's reproductive choices a reality in Georgia, the Southeast, and beyond!