Back in 2006, Salon.com contributor Michelle Goldberg wrote an article for the Public Eye Magazine discussing the attacks on, and the resiliency of the last standing women’s health clinic in Mississippi. As new developments continue to unfold, the piece remains as relevant today as it was when it was first written.
The siege of Mississippi’s last remaining abortion clinic has been fought for nine years, bringing the state perilously close to lacking abortion provision. From threatening demonstrations outside the clinic by organizations like Operation Save America, to recent judicial battles over complying with targeted abortion regulations, the anti-choice movement in Mississippi has been trying to ensure that the Jackson Women’s Health Organization will be closed down. Thanks in part to the amazing effort of its staff and volunteers, Mississippians are still able to exercise their reproductive rights. At this time of widespread anti-choice legislation in many states, the existence of only a single abortion clinic in Mississippi reminds us both that we are not far from a position where some won’t have access to a safe and legal abortion, and that there is still time to counter the anti-choice movement and ensure that safe and legal abortion is available in every state.
While the Mississippi anti-choice movement does everything it can to block women’s civil rights, the state also happens to have second highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the country and widespread child poverty. Access to abortions is already limited by the high cost and long travel times, and if women were forced to travel out of state, the cost would only increase and more women would be priced out of their reproductive rights.
With abortion clinics closing at an unprecedented rate, largely due to targeted regulation, communities across the country face loss of access not only to abortion but to the basic healthcare and contraceptive care these clinics often provide. Where anti-choice protests and threats have failed to close these clinics, small pieces of legislation dictating requirements that are near-impossible to implement have forced them to close. Whilst the Jackson Women’s Health Organization faces severe problems with sidewalk anti-choice protesters, including death threats, the work of volunteers in supporting women against this backdrop of intimidation helps negate their effect.The protesters’ actions are certainly unpleasant, but these protests tend not to close clinics, although they may dissuade patients. Similarly, legislation that enforces waiting times, invasive ultrasounds, and the reading of medically inaccurate warnings aims to prevent women from choosing or going through with an abortion. In many cases, it is “punitive legislation” that makes it very difficult for abortion clinics to operate, and is forcing them to close.
The statement by an Terri Herring, president of Pro-Life Mississippi,that “this is so we can lay the groundwork and set the stage, then any state can do so” underlines the symbolic importance of the possible closure of the Jackson clinic. Whilst there may be larger deserts of abortion provision, for Mississippi to potentially have no abortion provision undermines Roe vs. Wade and could lead to similar legislation and legal challenges in other states. The report reminds us that, “the right to an abortion doesn’t mean much if there’s no way to get one.”
Read our full 2006 report by Michelle Goldberg (https://www.politicalresearch.org/laying-siege-to-the-last-abortion-clinic-in-mississippi/)