Mississippi’s ‘Pink House’ ground zero in U.S. abortion rights fight By Reuters

By Gabriella Borter

JACKSON, Miss. (Reuters) – For eight years, Derenda Hancock has ushered ladies from their automobiles to the doorways of Mississippi’s solely abortion clinic, donning a rainbow vest as she shields them from protesters waving spiritual pamphlets and shouting “flip again!” by way of bullhorns.

Hancock, a 62-year-old part-time waitress, grew accustomed to repeated makes an attempt by lawmakers and anti-abortion activists to dam entry to abortions on the Jackson Women’s Health Organization the place she leads the clinic’s volunteer escorts.

But the way forward for that entry feels threatened like by no means earlier than after the U.S. Supreme Court thrust the clinic’s noisy metropolis block into the middle of the nation’s contentious debate over abortion rights.

The court docket on Monday agreed to assessment Mississippi’s bid to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of being pregnant, a Republican-backed measure enacted in direct problem to the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

The court docket’s new 6-Three conservative majority, which isn’t anticipated to rule on the case till subsequent 12 months, might resolve to weaken or overturn that ruling, which established a lady’s proper to terminate a being pregnant earlier than the fetus is viable, often between 24 and 28 weeks.

The Jackson Women’s Health Organization, recognized domestically because the “Pink House” due to its bubble gum-colored paint, is known as in the case.

“Our little case right here, all the pieces hangs on it,” mentioned Hancock, tears forming beneath her lavender eye shadow as she talked about sufferers, some who drive a whole lot of miles and scrape collectively the $150 wanted for an preliminary appointment.

“If they do overturn Roe, we’re done,” she mentioned. “I know in my heart this is the big enchilada.”

Mississippi is one in all six states with a single abortion clinic. It can also be one in all about 10 states with “trigger laws” that may successfully ban abortion outright with out Roe v. Wade, in line with the Guttmacher Institute, which helps abortion rights.

Three others border Mississippi – Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee – which means an overturn of Roe might remove authorized abortion entry for tens of millions of girls in the U.S. South.

Mississippi has enacted different legal guidelines that impede the flexibility to get abortions. Women should wait at the least 24 hours between their first session and the process, there are necessary sonograms, minors want parental consent, and public funding by way of Medicaid doesn’t cowl most circumstances.

The Jackson clinic has been getting ready to a shutdown earlier than because of numerous restrictive legal guidelines. After the Supreme Court information broke final week, the clinic acquired a flurry of calls from panicked sufferers asking if it might keep open, mentioned its director, Shannon Brewer.

Sitting at her workplace desk just a few days later, Brewer’s eyes darted continuously to a tv displaying feeds from the clinic’s safety cameras. She mentioned she couldn’t break the nervous behavior: People have vandalized the property in the previous, and Brewer fears for the security of the employees and medical doctors.

“The impact it would have affects so many clinics, so many women,” Brewer mentioned. “This one has a huge impact across the country.”


The Supreme Court’s assessment is a victory for anti-abortion lawmakers who’ve pushed a whole lot of abortion restrictions by way of Republican-led state legislatures in current years.

Outside the Pink House, many of the anti-abortion protesters mentioned a positive determination wouldn’t be sufficient.

“Ideally I’d like a constitutional amendment that recognizes the humanity of the unborn,” mentioned Dr. Beverly McMillan, a former Mississippi abortion supplier who now opposes the process.

She paced alongside the clinic sidewalk praying her rosary beads, a part of a bunch of protesters that included road preachers blasting gospel music and soft-spoken aged ladies handing out prayer playing cards.

Allan Klein, an engineer additionally praying rosary beads, mentioned he felt eradicating the constitutional proper to abortion was simply an preliminary step and that spiritual reasoning was wanted to forestall ladies from ending pregnancies.

“I’m more interested in getting people to change their minds,” he mentioned. “Ultimately, law enforcement isn’t going to completely keep people from doing what they want to do.”

For L.W., a 33-year-old mom of two who requested to go by her initials for privateness, tough circumstances led her to shift her stance on abortion.

A Jehovah’s Witness, she beforehand leaned in opposition to abortion. But monetary hardship and her wrestle with alcoholism performed a task in her determination to get a drugs abortion at eight weeks pregnant, she mentioned.

“I struggled between ‘I don’t need to do it’ and ‘I have to do it,’” L.W. mentioned, sitting in the clinic’s gated courtyard final week after a check-up.

In Mississippi, the place some 20% of residents reside in poverty, the vast majority of abortion sufferers get monetary help by way of nationwide abortion funds to cowl the process, which might exceed $600. The ladies usually nonetheless have to avoid wasting up for the price of at the least two journeys – one for state-mandated counseling and one other for the process.

About half of girls who get abortions in the United States are in poverty, in line with Guttmacher’s most up-to-date knowledge from 2014.

L.W. mentioned her expertise made her extra obsessed with defending abortion rights.

“No one right here is aware of what I’m going by way of,” she mentioned, her arms folded in her lap as shouting and music echoed from the road.

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