JACKSON, Miss. – The bright pink building of an eclectic neighborhood in the Mississippi capital has different names. For anti-abortion protesters whose demonstrations have sparked a noise ordinance, it is an “abortion mill”. For those who work there and volunteer, the facility known as the “Pink House” provides Mississippi’s ultimate safe haven for women who choose to have an abortion.
Now, Mississippi’s only abortion clinic faces what could be its biggest challenge. The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it will hear arguments this fall about a Mississippi law that would limit abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a case designed to test the extent to which a court rebuilt under the former president Donald Trump is willing to go to restrict the right to an abortion.
The 2018 Mississippi Act has been suspended due to the court fight. If the judges allow it to become effective, that would not have a huge impact on who can abort in Mississippi. Women’s Health Organization Jackson health care providers do not perform abortions after 16 weeks. But clinic director Shannon Brewer said confirming the ban would cause conservative lawmakers to push for more restrictions.
“It simply came to our notice then. And then, once they know they can, they’ll do it constantly, ”Brewer said Tuesday.
As states have enacted stricter laws and the number of clinics has dwindled, thousands of women have crossed state lines to have abortions. A 2019 analysis by The Associated Press found that at least 276,000 women terminated their pregnancies outside their home state between 2012 and 2017. In the pockets of the Midwest, South and West Mountain, the number of women who aborted a pregnancy in another state increased considerably, especially when The lack of clinics meant that the nearest provider was in another state or where less restrictive policies made it easier and faster to have an abortion there.
With no doctors in Mississippi willing to abort, five out-of-state doctors rotate for Jackson. Some patients travel for hours from small towns in one of the country’s poorest states, first for counseling and then 24 hours later for abortion.
A woman who has completed two pregnancies at the clinic said she has never regretted a single moment for these decisions. At the time, she was in her thirties and did what was best for her and her young son, she said.
While they were at the clinic, she and the other women talked to each other while they waited. He remembered his stories: one had been raped by his own father; another had been raped by her boss; another was in medical school.
“I want women to understand that it’s okay and that you shouldn’t feel guilty,” she said. He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he is in a legal dispute with his son’s father and believes that talking publicly about his abortions could hurt him in this case.
Outside the clinic, anti-abortion protesters face voluntary escorts. Protesters often try to prevent cars from entering the clinic parking lot. Some pray, sing or hold posters with graphic photos of aborted fetuses. Others climb stairs to look over a fence surrounding the clinic, calling out volunteer escorts who call themselves “pink house advocates” and accompanying patients inside.
Doug Lane, president of Pastors for Life, is a frequent presence in front of the pink building where he tries to convince women and girls to give up abortion. He said he and other protesters are exercising their rights to freedom of expression and sometimes change their minds about women, directing them to a nearby crisis pregnancy center that offers ultrasounds and clothes for babies.
“We have a right to be heard, even by people who disagree with us and oppose it,” Lane said.
Protests outside the clinic have become a hotbed in the Jackson neighborhood.
Two restaurants are located directly across the street from the building. Some days, protesters are silent or pray quietly. Other times, they use megaphones that can be heard inside restaurants, even with the doors closed. Cars driving with horns in support or warning.
One last day, the families of one of the restaurants ate outside in a group of tables no more than 6 meters from two children sitting in silence with signs that said, “We are ambassadors of Jesus Christ.” A woman went back and forth praying breathlessly and holding a sign: “Pray to end abortion.”
In 2019, Jackson City Council enacted an ordinance to limit noise outside medical facilities. Some council members said their action was in response to complaints about activities outside the abortion clinic, but the city backed down and revoked the ordinance a year later after a lawsuit challenged the rule.
Nathan Glenn is co-owner of the two restaurants located in front of the clinic. He said his family had been working there for twenty years and when they opened the restaurants he didn’t know they were near an abortion clinic. He said he respects the right of people to protest, but they block entry to restaurants and call on diners.
The director of the clinic, Brewer, said all restrictions and protests will not stop abortions in Mississippi, but only make it more dangerous. He said people who oppose abortion intend to worry about women and their future children, but if they really cared, they would spend more time caring for children once they were born paying for things like better medical care or child care.
“She is not going to stop abortions in Mississippi. “There were abortions in Mississippi before Roe v. Wade,” Brewer said.
AP writers Leah Willingham in Jackson and Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta contributed to this story.
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