JACKSON, Miss. ( Associated Press) — Mississippi’s only abortion clinic is buzzing with activity in chaotic days as the U.S. Supreme Court upheld abortion rights. Nationwide — a case that originated in this conservative Deep South state, with this bright-pink medical facility closing its doors Wednesday.
Physicians at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization are trying to see as many patients as possible before Thursday, when Mississippi will legislate, barring an unexpected intervention by the state’s conservative Supreme Court. To ban most abortions.
Clashes intensified on Wednesday amid scorching heat and humidity between anti-abortion protesters and volunteers taking patients to the clinic, known as the Pink House.
When Dr. Cheryl Hamlin, who traveled for five years from Boston to have an abortion, walked outside the Pink House, anti-abortionists used a bullhorn to shout at her. “Repent! Regret!” Doug Lane screamed.
Her words were suppressed by abortion rights supporter Beau Black, who repeatedly shouted at Lane: “Hypocratic and Pharisee! Hypocrite and Pharisee!”
Access to abortion has become increasingly limited in wide areas of the US as conservative states have imposed restrictions or restrictions that took effect when the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
The court, reconstituted by three conservative judges appointed by former President Donald Trump, issued the ruling on June 24. But the Mississippi clinic has been filled with patients since September, when Texas banned abortion in pregnancy.,
Cars with license plates from Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas are driving from Jackson’s Fondaren neighborhood to bring women and girls—some of whom appear to be teenagers—to the Pink House. Drivers in the shade of pink and purple crepe myrtle parked on the streets near the clinic, blasting their car’s air-conditioners as they waited.
Diane Derzis, owner of the Mississippi clinic since 2010, turned to Jackson to speak at the Pink House, hours after the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
“It has been such an honor and a privilege to be in Mississippi. I have fallen in love with this state and the people who live in it,” Derzis told people gathered in the sweltering heat.
The Supreme Court’s decision was in a case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – the clinic’s challenge of a 2018 Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks. Pink House had been performing abortions since 16 weeks, but under previous US Supreme Court rulings, abortions were permitted to the point of fetal viability at around 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 matter. The state’s Republican attorney general urged judges to use the case to overturn Roe v. Wade and give states more power to regulate or prohibit abortion.
Derzis told the Associated Press after the ruling that he did not regret filing the lawsuit, which ultimately undermined nearly five decades of abortion case law.
“We didn’t have a choice. And if this lawsuit wasn’t there, it would have been another,” said Derzis, who owns abortion clinics in Georgia and Virginia, and lives in Alabama.
The Mississippi clinic uses out-of-state physicians such as Dr. Hamlin because there will be no out-of-state doctors working there.
As the Pink House prepared to close, Dr. Hamlin said he was concerned about women living in deep poverty in parts of the state with little access to health care.
“People say, ‘Oh, what should I do? he said. “And I’m like, ‘Vote.'”
Pink House director Shannon Brewer agrees that low-income women will be most affected by being unable to get an abortion in the state.
Brewer told the Associated Press that anti-abortion protesters know her by name and yell at her but she tunes in to them.
“They don’t tell me anymore, you know, ‘You’re coming to work hitting the kids,'” Brewer said. “I’ve been here for 20 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 again.”
Some employees were expected to be present on Thursday for paperwork before the Pink House closed, but no process took place.
With the Mississippi clinic closed, Derzis and Brewer will soon open an abortion clinic in Las Cruces, New Mexico—about an hour’s drive from El Paso, Texas—call it Pink House West. Hamlin said he was getting a license in New Mexico so that he could work there.
Mississippi and New Mexico are two of America’s poorest states, but have very different positions on abortion politics and access.
New Mexico, the Democratic-led legislature and home of the governor, recently took an extra step to protect providers and patients from out-of-state lawsuits., Neighboring states with more restrictive abortion laws are likely to see a steady influx of people seeking abortions.
Whole Women’s Health, one of the largest abortion providers in Texas, announced Wednesday That it plans to reopen in New Mexico, a city near the state line, to allow abortions in the first and second trimesters. It began shutting down operations in Texas following a ruling by the state’s Supreme Court on Friday This forced abortion to be abolished in four of its clinics.
Standing outside the Mississippi clinic on June 24, Derzis was insightful about the future of the building he painted bright pink several years ago.
“This building will be sold and maybe someone will take it down and make a parking lot here,” Derzis said. “And it would be sad, but it served its purpose, and many women had abortions here.”
Associated Press writer Susan Montoya Bryan contributed from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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