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University of Alabama rejects $26.5 million from donor critical of state's abortion ban

Lawsuit filed against Alabama abortion ban

Tuscaloosa, Ala. — The University of Alabama board of trustees voted Friday to give back a $26.5 million donation to Hugh Culverhouse, who recently called on students to boycott the school over the state's new abortion ban. Later that day, a maintenance crew removed his name from the campus's law school.

The 70-year-old real estate investor and lawyer has already given $21.5 million to the university after his pledge last September with the rest still to come.

But in a news release last week, he urged students to participate in a boycott of the school. "I don't want anybody to go to that law school, especially women, until the state gets its act together," Culverhouse said. The Alabama ban would make abortion at any stage of pregnancy a crime punishable by 10 years to life in prison for the provider, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Hours later, Alabama announced it was considering giving back his money. The university claims the dispute has nothing to do with Culverhouse's calls for a boycott. Instead, officials say it was in an "ongoing dispute" with Culverhouse over the way his gift was to be handled.

The university said that on May 28 — the day before Culverhouse's boycott call — its chancellor recommended the trustees return the donation. The university said donors "may not dictate University administration" and that Culverhouse had made "numerous demands" regarding the operation of the school.

Culverhouse acknowledged there were some disagreements over the handling of his gift. He said he told university President Stuart Bell that the law school should admit more students and that his donation was to fund scholarships to achieve that. But he said he thought the matter had been resolved.

Culverhouse did not attend Alabama, but his parents did, and the business school bears the name of Hugh Culverhouse Sr., a wealthy tax lawyer and developer who owned the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.