JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi’s only abortion clinic has been buzzing with activity in the chaotic days since the U.S. Supreme Court upended abortion rights nationwide — a case that originated in this conservative Deep South state, with this bright-pink medical facility that is closing its doors Wednesday.
Physicians at Jackson Women’s Health Organization have been trying to see as many patients as possible before Thursday, when, barring an unlikely intervention by the state’s conservative Supreme Court, Mississippi will enact a law to ban most abortions.
In the midst of scorching summer heat, the clashes between pro-abortion demonstrators and volunteers who escorted patients to the Pink House clinic intensified Wednesday.
Continue reading: Inside Mississippi’s Last Abortion Clinic—and the Biggest Fight for Abortion Rights in a Generation
Doctor Cheryl Hamlin has been traveling from Boston five years ago to do abortions. A bullhorn was used by an opponent to shout at Dr. Hamlin. “Repent! Repent!” shouted Doug Lane.
His words were drowned out by abortion rights supporter Beau Black, who repeatedly screamed at Lane: “Hypocrites and Pharisees! Hypocrites and Pharisees!”
As conservative states enact bans or restrictions that were put in place after Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court, abortion has been made more difficult across large swathes throughout the United States.
Three conservative justices, including one former president Donald Trump appointed, changed the court’s composition and issued the ruling on June 24. The Mississippi clinic was overflowing with people since September, when Texas passed an abortion ban early in pregnancy.
Cars with license plates from Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas have been driving through Jackson’s Fondren neighborhood to bring women and girls— some of whom appeared to be teenagers — to the Pink House. In the shade pink and purple crepe myrtles hue, drivers were seen parking on the side streets next to the clinic with their air-conditioners blasting while they waited.
Diane Derzis has been the owner of the Mississippi clinic in Mississippi since 2010. She drove from Mississippi to give a speech at the Pink House after the Supreme Court’s ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.
“It’s been such an honor and a privilege to be in Mississippi. I’ve come to love this state and the people in it,” Derzis told those gathered in the sweltering heat.
Continue reading: U.S. Maternal Mortality Rates may Get Worse Without Roe V. Wade
The Supreme Court ruling was in a case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — the clinic’s challenge of a 2018 Mississippi law to ban most abortions after 15 weeks. Although the Pink House was performing abortions for 16 weeks, previous U.S. Supreme Court decisions allowed abortion to be performed until fetal viability after about 24 weeks.
Mississippi’s top public health official, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, was named in the lawsuit, but has not taken a public position about the case. The state’s Republican attorney general urged justices to use the case to overturn Roe v. Wade and give states more power to regulate or ban abortion.
Derzis told The Associated Press after the ruling that she didn’t regret filing the lawsuit that eventually undercut nearly five decades of abortion case law.
“We didn’t have a choice. And if it hadn’t been this lawsuit, it would have been another one,” said Derzis, who also owns abortion clinics in Georgia and Virginia, and lives in Alabama.
Because Mississippi has no doctors in the state, Dr. Hamlin is employed at the Mississippi clinic.
Continue reading: What Safe Haven States for Abortion Can Do
Dr. Hamlin stated that as the Pink House was about to close down, she worried about the fate of women in poverty living in areas with limited access to medical care.
“People say, ‘Oh, what am I supposed to do?’” she said. “And I’m like, ‘Vote.’”
Shannon Brewer from Pink House, the director of Pink House, agreed that women with low incomes will suffer most if they are unable to have abortions at-state.
Brewer said to the AP that the protesters against abortion know Brewer by name, and yell at them. But she ignores their cries.
“They don’t say a lot to me anymore other than, you know, ‘You’re coming to work to kill babies,’” Brewer said. “I’ve been here for 20-something years. So, it’s like when I get out of the car I don’t really hear it because it’s like the same thing over and over and over again.”
Staffers are expected to attend the Pink House for documentation ahead of closing. However, no formalities were taken.
With the Mississippi clinic closing, Derzis and Brewer will soon open an abortion clinic in Las Cruces, New Mexico, about an hour’s drive from El Paso, Texas, — calling it Pink House West. Hamlin indicated that she will soon be licensed to practice in New Mexico.
Mississippi and New Mexico, two of America’s poorest states, have very different views on access to abortion and politics.
Continue reading: What Will Abortion Providers In Anti-Abortion States Do Following Roe
New Mexico is home to a Democratic-led legislature, governor and recently did an additional step to shield providers and patients against prosecutions from outside states. It’s likely to continue to see a steady influx of people seeking abortions from neighboring states with more restrictive abortion laws.
One of the largest abortion providers in Texas, Whole Woman’s Health, announced Wednesday that it is also planning to reopen in New Mexico in a city near the state line, to provide first- and second-trimester abortions. The Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday that abortions must be stopped at the four clinics.
On June 24, Derzis stood outside of the Mississippi Clinic to discuss the future plans for the building that she painted bright pink many years ago.
“This building will be sold and maybe someone will knock it down and make a parking lot here,” Derzis said. “And that will be sad, but she served her purpose and many women had their abortions here.”
— AP writer Susan Montoya Bryan contributed from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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