Haley Hammond says she cried at her desk last week when she saw pledges from Blazers fans on Twitter to donate a dollar for every point the team scored during Game 2 of the Western Conference finals to the Yellowhammer Fund.
Hammond, 28, moved to Portland in 2017, but grew up in Montgomery, Ala. After Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, she started volunteering as an escort at an abortion clinic in Tuscaloosa. "I knew I had to do something," Hammond says. "I couldn't just post articles and hope people pay attention."
From Portland, Hammond still volunteers for the Yellowhammer Fund, helping the group raise money to provide abortion assistance to people in her home state. She says she was shocked to see local basketball fans support abortion rights in the South.
"I can't believe people in Portland are paying attention and being supportive of what's happening in Alabama," Hammond says.
Fans of the Portland Trail Blazers each pledged to donate $111 to the Yellowhammer Fund, which helps provide abortion access to Alabamans, after a May 16 game against the Golden State Warriors.
Blazers fan Hannah Carmody started the campaign in response to legislation signed the same week in Alabama banning abortions in all cases, even rape and incest. Carmody asked fellow fans to donate a dollar for each Blazers point scored. (The Blazers lost the game 114-111, part of a sweep by the Warriors that ended the team's playoff run.)
Amanda Reyes, the Yellowhammer Fund's executive director, says the "outpouring of support from Blazers fans" was incredible. Reyes couldn't tally the total amount donated by Blazers fans by press deadlines—the fund was too overwhelmed by support. "I am truly amazed at the expressions of solidarity that we've received in the last several days," she says. (Indie-rock band Portugal the Man and media company Kamp Grizzly each made $1,110 donations.)
We asked Hammond about her work and the move from Alabama to pro-choice Portland.
WW: Why did you start volunteering at the Yellowhammer Fund?
Haley Hammond: I've been pro-choice since I was a teenager, and after the 2016 election, I knew I had to do something. The protesters at the abortion clinics were emboldened [after Trump was elected]. Alabama is definitely dominated by conservative politicians, but they're facing backlash within the state.
What was it like being an abortion clinic escort?
The protesters' approaches really run the gamut. They would call us "deathscorts" or "daughters of Satan." The worst thing I saw was when a parent came in with a young child. The protesters yelled, "Your mom is in there killing your baby brother or sister!" I thought they wouldn't yell at a kid, but that sort of humanity apparently didn't apply.
What will this abortion ban mean for Alabamans?
It will lead to people doing it themselves, successfully or not. That's all this legislation is doing, not getting rid of abortion, just making it really unsafe. Someone wittier than I am said, "Senators' mistresses will always have access to abortion," and that's true; those with wealth and power will always have options. This ban is going to disproportionately affect those without.
Do you think Portlanders are shielded from the harsher realities of abortion rights being rolled back?
Oregon is really a utopia compared to the south. That being said, the only time I've ever been harassed for my pro-choice bumper sticker was in downtown Portland, where a person left a note on my windshield that basically implied I supported killing children. I don't think it's wise to dismiss red state problems as just red state problems. Any effort to raise awareness or donate is wonderfully helpful. It's still sort of surreal to me that people in Portland are paying attention to Alabama.