Last Mississippi abortion clinic closes its doors as state ban takes effect Thursday

·4 min read

JACKSON, Miss. — On Wednesday evening, after some of the last patients to receive a legal abortion in Mississippi had left Jackson Women's Health Organization, the last abortion clinic in the state closed its doors.

On Thursday, abortion will become illegal in Mississippi, the state with the highest infant mortality and teen birth rates in the nation, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Abortion access has quickly diminished across wide swaths of the U.S. as conservative states enact restrictions or bans that took effect when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Mississippi was one of 13 states with "trigger laws" on the books, which automatically or through quick state action banned abortions following the Supreme Court ruling.

The trigger law passed the state legislature in 2007 and bans all abortions, whether performed surgically or via medication, with few exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape and those that threaten the life of the mother. The rape exception requires a victim to have reported the crime to the police.

"Mississippi’s laws to promote life are solid and thanks to the Court’s clear and strong opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, they can now go into effect," Attorney General Lynn Fitch said in a news release announcing that she was setting the trigger law into motion.

'IT WILL NOT HAPPEN OVERNIGHT': Can abortion access drive voters to turn purple states blue?

'FORCED INTO AN INCREMENTAL APPROACH': How the Southern Baptist Convention became a powerful force in the fight against abortion

"As we have said throughout this case, Roe v. Wade presented a false choice between a woman’s future and her child’s life," Fitch said. "As we proceed in this post-Roe world, the people of Mississippi and of all the states will be able to fully engage in the work of both empowering women and promoting life."

Even supporters of the 2007 law have said the exceptions are narrow and it will be hard for people claiming them to have an abortion. Mississippi state Sen. Joey Fillingane, wrote the abortion ban. He said in a May interview with WLBT that those seeking the rape exception won't have a clinic available to receive an abortion.

“There won’t be a place for anybody to say, ‘Oh, I’m going to use the exception to go down to the clinic,’” Fillingane said. “The clinic is not going to be there.”

The end of abortions at Jackson Women's Health Organization, the state's last operating clinic, also known as the Pink House, leaves Mississippians seeking an abortion with hundreds of miles between the state and the closest places with widespread access. It also closes the book on decades of protest, activism and reproductive healthcare at the clinic, leaving many who have spent decades of their lives there wondering what to do next.

Beau Black, 33, rallies for abortion while wearing two bibles as shoes outside of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization on the last day the clinic is legally allowed to be open in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, July 6, 2022.
Beau Black, 33, rallies for abortion while wearing two bibles as shoes outside of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization on the last day the clinic is legally allowed to be open in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, July 6, 2022.

Medication abortion, commonly known as the abortion pill, had already made up a majority of the abortions provided by the Jackson Women's Health Organization. It is unlikely that abortion pills will be totally unavailable to Mississippians, despite the state's ban on them — individuals' mail is regulated by the federal government, not the state.

And states where abortion remains legal, like Illinois, are working hard to provide access to abortion pills for people in states like Mississippi, said Mary Jane Maharry, interim director of marketing and communications for Planned Parenthood of Illinois.

"Anyone with an Illinois address can get the abortion pills mailed to that address. If they don't have an Illinois address, they can still do a telehealth visit. So if somebody from Mississippi wanted to drive their car to within the Illinois state line, they could do their telehealth visit in their car and then drive to a health center to pick up their medication," Maharry said.

Jackson Women's Health Organization had sought an injunction to delay the abortion ban, while they exhausted their legal options in state courts. But a judge refused to grant them that injunction Tuesday, leading to the ban taking effect.

With Roe v. Wade behind them, many of the state's conservative leaders have pledged to help mothers and young children, while offering few specifics.

"Our state seeks to be pro-life in every sense of the word — supporting mothers and children through policies of compassion and working to ensure that every baby has a forever family that loves them," Mississippi's Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said in a statement the day Roe v. Wade was struck down.

Diane Derzis, who owns the clinic, said it will eventually close in Jackson following the abortion ban. But Derzis, along with Pink House Director Shannon Brewer, will soon open a new clinic, dubbed "Pink House West," in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

"There will be pink houses all over the country if I have anything to say about it," Derzis said in a June 24 news conference.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Mississippi abortion ban takes effect as last clinic closes Wednesday

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting