Clinic consultation

Mississippi’s last abortion clinic faces a rush of women trying to meet biology and law deadlines

On a street corner in Jackson, Mississippi, America’s record with abortion is up close and personal.

The Jackson Women’s Health Organization parking lot entrance is always an intense place. But today, it’s on another level.

As cars pull in with patients arriving for appointments, anti-abortion activists offer direct, unsolicited advice.

“Don’t let them kill your child…”

“Would you love this little baby and pity him?

“The Bible says the body without the spirit is dead…”

The Pink House, as it is known, is the only abortion clinic still in operation in the state of Mississippi.

In a few days, once the governor signs the law banning abortion, he will be forced to close.

In surrounding states – Louisiana, Alabama, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas and Kentucky – all clinics have already closed.

And that’s why The Pink House parking lot is so busy. This is the consequence of the Supreme Court ruling.

Choices are now made and deeply personal steps taken in haste, not only to meet a deadline of biology but of law.

Support volunteers dressed in multicolored vests are on hand to guide cars and patients through the gauntlet of protesters.

I watch anti-abortion protester Doug Lane shout his interpretation of the Bible through a car window.

The protesters are still there, despite their victory in the Supreme Court, offering God and the choice between redemption or hell.

I ask Doug if this is really appropriate behavior towards women with such personal choices to make.

“Do you think that intimidates them? What we hope is to prick their conscience,” he said.

“We believe that the child in the womb is a human being created in the image of God and that destroying that life is murder.”

Another protester, Brian, is also blunt.

“They’re killing babies in this pink house here. People need to be prosecuted, justice needs to be upheld now,” he says.

“Hell is going to be hot and forever.

“We love these women and we want them to repent and we want these babies saved.

“So we lift our voice like a trumpet and preach the gospel.”

The Supreme Court ruling that profoundly altered the fabric of American society began here at The Pink House.

The clinic’s battle with the state of Mississippi has worked its way through the US court system. This year, it finally reached the highest court in the land and the offices of its nine judges.

The Supreme Court, with its ultra-conservative Trump-appointed majority, sided with the state on Friday and, in doing so, overturned a woman’s right to choose; a right enshrined in the US Constitution for 50 years.

“What happened is unconstitutional,” clinic escort Dale Gibson tells me.

“How can they take away states’ rights saying anyone can carry a gun, but then hijack federal women’s rights and give them back to the states? That makes no sense.”

He looks angry but deeply upset too.

He pauses, then adds, “I hope everyone enjoyed the constitution we had for 250 years because we don’t have it anymore. I’m done.”

In front of the clinic, I meet Pattie D’Arcy who came from New Orleans to express her support for the choice of a woman.

“Louisiana has already shut down,” she says.

“Women are going to die. I’m not just dramatizing. It’s really scary.”

The decision of the Supreme Court in Washington DC raises deep questions for the country about its unity, its stability, its democracy, but where the impact will be so great, the questions are more fundamental. It is about choices about health and life being taken away.

Away from the fray, I meet Natalie Collier. She is the founder and president of The Lighthouse: Black Girl Projects, a charity that supports some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in this city.

“It’s a conversation about control,” she tells me.

“Black women who are historically poor, living in communities that don’t serve them well, are going to bear the brunt of that,” she says.

I ask what is happening now.

“It’s about finding ways to overturn the system to care for people in communities,” she says.

“It’s about doing things…I’m trying to find a better way to say take care of people illegally if that’s what needs to be done.”

And this is the crux of the problem. The consequence, in the long term, will be to drive abortion underground.