Top University of Alabama donor tells students to boycott

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — One of the University of Alabama's top donors said Wednesday that students should boycott enrolling at the school to protest the state's newly approved abortion ban.

Hugh Culverhouse Jr., a Florida businessman who has donated more than $30 million to the university, said he doesn't want students who attend the school to become "trapped" under what he calls a morally and constitutionally wrong law.

"I don't want anybody to go to that law school, especially women, until the state gets its act together," Culverhouse said in an interview. "You probably shouldn't put a living person's name on a building, because at some point they might get fed up and start talking."

The university renamed its law school in Culverhouse's honor in September after he made a record-setting donation, but that gift is in limbo as part of an ongoing dispute between Culverhouse and the university about how the funds have been used.

The university issued a news release Wednesday evening saying that Culverhouse asked for the return of $10 million last week after "repeating numerous demands about the operations" of the law school. On Tuesday, university Chancellor Finis E. St. John IV recommended to the Board of Trustees that Culverhouse's $21.5 million donation be returned and the school's original name be restored. The board will vote next week.

The university said none of the issues between the law school and Culverhouse involved the abortion legislation. Culverhouse called for the boycott in a press release Wednesday without notifying university officials.

The legislation signed by Gov. Kay Ivey on May 15 would make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony punishable by 10 to 99 years or life in prison for the provider. The law makes no exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. The only exception would be when the woman's health is at serious risk.

In a statement responding to Culverhouse, Ivey said, "Alabama is open for business, and our deep commitment to advancing economic opportunities for Alabamians will continue to remain a top priority for our state."

Emboldened by new conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court, Alabama is part of a wave of conservative states seeking to mount new legal challenges to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood asked a federal judge to block Alabama's legislation in a lawsuit filed Friday. The law is set to take effect in November unless blocked by a judge.

Culverhouse, who was born in Montgomery, also called on businesses like Mercedes-Benz and Google to avoid doing business in the state. He said any company that chooses to continue its business should be boycotted by consumers.

"To the state of Alabama: You need to be punished until you wake up and do the right thing," he said.

Culverhouse's parents both attended Alabama and were prominent donors to the university. The business school is named after Culverhouse's father, who was the owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team and, according to Culverhouse, was on the board of the Planned Parenthood in Jacksonville, Florida, in the 1950s.

Culverhouse said he stepped up donations to the ACLU and, depending on the response to this boycott, will consider donating to Alabama politicians opposed to the abortion legislation during the next election cycle.

"When you say sweet home Alabama, you can kiss my ass," Culverhouse said. "There isn't anything sweet about it until this absolute abomination is done with."

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