Last Days of Mississippi’s Last Abortion Clinic

Jackson, Miss. – A young woman broke into the parking lot of the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, her shoulders bowed. He was accompanied by an old woman and a stone-faced young man, handcuffed on his hip. She appeared terrified.

Around them, the noise was deafening. It was a Saturday morning, and a man with a powerful PA system was preaching to Jezebel about being eaten by dogs. Dozens of evangelical Christians came to pray. Volunteer clinic escorts, sweating in the summer heat, guided patients’ cars through the crowd and blaring music they thought evangelists would hate: at the moment, it was the cheeky alt-rock song “Stacey’s Mom”. There are posters of fallen fetuses on the road.

A pastor named Doug Lane met with the old woman and encouraged her to persuade the younger woman not to undergo the procedure. “I wanted him to have a baby,” said the woman, her voice unsteady.

Soon all this – sermons, frightened patients, rock music, bloody posters – will disappear. But before that happens, there are guaranteed to be a few more days of roaring, passionate crescendo, as the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Roe v. The clinic, in pink at the center of the Supreme Court’s decision that overturned Wade, tries to see as many patients as possible before it is forced to close.

There’s already a lot to say about what will happen next. Outside the clinic, abortion opponents discussed how their churches might do a better job of spreading the message of abstinence in the state with the nation’s highest teen pregnancy rate. Meanwhile, advocates of abortion access are working to build a network of donors, volunteers, teachers and even pilots to help women in the country. poorest state Travel to places where the process will remain legal. Similar efforts are underway in much of the country, in states where abortion will now be prohibited and in places where out-of-state women are expected to accommodate if needed.

“Abortion is our business, and that’s what we’re going to do — to make sure women have access,” said Diane Derzis, owner of the Jackson Clinic. “We are not going away.”

Abortion restrictions have already been in place in nine states since Friday’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, with at least 12 more restrictions or restrictions expected to take effect soon, including Mississippi. While this was a Mississippi law that sought to restrict abortion at 15 weeks, which continued in Dobbs, the state also has a so-called trigger law, passed in 2007, that allows rape or at-risk cases. Completely bans abortion except Mother’s life

That law 10. may not take effect Days after state Attorney General Lynn Fitch attested to the Supreme Court’s decision. until Sunday, It appears that Ms Fitch has not done so yet, although there is no doubt that she will soon. Ms. Fitch, a Republican, filed a brief before the Supreme Court defending Mississippi abortion restrictions; on twitter, he appreciated the decision “As a victory, not only for the women and children, but for the court itself.”

And so the fight continues outside the Pink Clinic, as it has been for years. Protesters have long been a fixture in Jackson’s Fondren neighborhood, coexisting uncomfortably among its hip shops and cafes. They have been the subject of city council ordinances, police consent decrees, and frequent complaints from business owners. And they are just one of the complications that have made operating the only abortion clinic in Mississippi exceedingly difficult.

Intimidating factors, the social climate and a number of legal constraints – including requiring abortion providers to give women scientifically questionable health warnings – have forced clinics to turn to a rotation of out-of-state doctors who Jackson has gone in and out. for years.

On Saturday, Mr Lane, the pastor, said it was “anguish” that the clinic was constantly seeing clients. Till here After the Supreme Court’s decision. He was in no mood to celebrate Roe’s downfall. Rather, he said, he would oppose the clinic the same way he did since the 1990s.

“This is going to be the hardest nine days of my life,” said Mr. Lane, who, like others, had mistakenly assumed that the clock was already ticking for the clinic. “Because they shouldn’t have abortions. All these other states closed their clinics.”

The day before, Ms. Derzis, who lives in Birmingham, Ala., and owns several abortion clinics, came to the Jackson Clinic and held a defiant news conference outside, her face partially covered in large Jackie Onassis-style sunglasses. was hidden from She spoke of a new clinic being opened in Las Cruces, NM, about 1,100 miles away, and efforts to raise funds to help women in Mississippi travel to New Mexico and other places where abortion is legal. Will stay

“The fact that we’re not here doesn’t mean we’re not going to see Mississippi women, and those who need us,” she said.

In an interview, Ms Derzis, 68, said she had a miscarriage at the age of 20 in Birmingham in 1973, when she was still in college and living with her first husband. A year later, she went to work at the Birmingham Women’s Clinic. He said that owning and operating such clinics has been his “dream job”, giving him an opportunity to help women in need. She also said that she felt obligated to obtain a law degree at one point, as her critics had thrown up barriers over the years.

Ms Derzis said she will likely keep the phone number for the Jackson clinic listed, and that the calls may be rolled over to the New Mexico facility.

Cheryl Hamlin, a Massachusetts doctor who flew to work at the Jackson Clinic, said in an interview that she was working on getting a license in New Mexico so she could eventually move there for work. She was also researching ways that Mississippi women might be able to get abortion pills “online or by mail or whatever.”

Dr. Hamlin said he is delighted with the renewed enthusiasm to raise funds to help women travel. But she also worried that it might not be a long-term solution.

“You know, he leaves,” she said.

On Friday, Ms. Fitch, Attorney General, posted a tweet It said that following the decision, the government should try to pass “laws that empower women,” which include changes to child support, child care and workplace policies.

On the same day, three dissenting judges in the Dobbs case — Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — counted several ways Mississippi could be lower, with some of the highest infant mortality rates in the nation, and some of the highest rates of premature birth. Low birth weight, caesarean section and maternal death. She noted that 62 percent of Mississippi pregnancies are unplanned, “Mississippi does not require insurance to cover contraceptives and prevents teachers from demonstrating proper contraceptive use.”

In recent years, Republican lawmakers in firm control of the state have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, a major reason critics say the state’s health outcomes are so poor. In April, however, Governor Tate Reeves signed a law giving tax credits to supporters of “pregnancy resource centers,” which are usually aligned with faith groups and counseling women against abortion. Terry Herring, president of Choice Life Mississippi Group, was optimistic that the strong center would help poor women understand their options in the post-Croep scenario.

“These pregnancy resource centers are going to provide that kind person to lead these people through their pregnancies,” she said. “A lot of women just need to know what’s already available to them.”

As the temperature soared towards 100 degrees on Saturday, the desperation of the clinic’s escorts was clearly visible. The street was narrow, and escorts tried to save the patients as much as possible from the protesters, assuring that no pedestrians were killed.

At one point, 53-year-old Dale Gibson, a merchant sailor who had volunteered as an escort, began yelling and cursing at a protester named Zack Boyd, who used a small piece of rubber every time a patient came inside. Holds the doll up, then shouts to the patients. Through the fence, asked them to repent and keep their child.

Mr. Boyd had moved Mr. Gibson’s folding camp chair. Mr Gibson objected and accused Mr Boyd, who was standing on the border of the clinic driveway, of trespassing. An armed security guard intervened, trying to bring down the temperature.

Mr Gibson said he has had enough for Mississippi and was planning to move to California with Kim Gibson, his wife and a fellow escort. “We’re living in a theocracy, right?” “If they think it’s going to end with abortion, people are kidding themselves,” Mr Gibson said.

Ms Derzis said the day was particularly busy, with 35 abortions performed and 25 counseling sessions for women who intend to have the procedure soon.

As the last patients entered, Ms. Gibson, who stood at the entrance to the parking lot, was sweaty and exhausted. Madison Gass, 21, an anti-abortion protestor, asked if she wanted a bottle of water.

Ms. Gibson said, “All I want is for you all.”

Mr Boyd overheard him. “We will in nine days,” he said. “Praise the Lord.”

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