In September 2011, Operation Save America* started their States of Refuge* campaign. The stated goal was “…to establish the first abortion free states since Roe vs. Wade.”* The targeted states were those with only one abortion clinic at the time. This included Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. With help from anti-abortion legislators, they are nearing their goal in Mississippi.
- House Bill 1390, which was signed into law on April 16 and partially blocked by a federal judge in July 2012, imposes medically unwarranted requirements that any physician performing abortions in the state be a board certified or eligible obstetrician-gynecologist with admitting privileges at an area hospital.
- Although all the doctors currently providing abortions to women at the Mississippi clinic are board-certified ob-gyns, the physicians responsible for the lion’s share of the clinic’s patients have not been granted privileges by any of the hospitals in the area. In fact, several of the hospitals refused to even process the physicians’ applications, citing their biased policies and practices towards abortion care.
- To quote several hospitals’ letters refusing to process applications submitted by the physicians at JWHO: “The nature of your proposed medical practice is inconsistent with this Hospital’s policies and practices as concerns abortion and, in particular, elective abortions; … [and] The nature of your proposed medical practice would lead to both an internal and external disruption of the Hospital’s function and business within this community.”
- In his July 2012 order, U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III allowed the law to take effect, but blocked the state from imposing any criminal or civil penalties on the clinic, its staff, or its physicians for providing services to women while the application process was ongoing. The state Department of Health gave JWHO until January to show that all physicians “associated with” the clinic have admitting privileges at a local hospital. “
- “I have dedicated half of my 20-year career to ensuring women have access to the full range of reproductive health care services—because when women get the medical care they need, they thrive,” said Dr. Willie Parker, a board-certified ob-gyn with admitting privileges at local hospitals in both Maryland and Virginia. Dr. Parker currently provides reproductive health care services to women in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Alabama, and Mississippi.
Operation Save America* had a lot of help from Mississippi state legislators in bringing the only clinic in Mississippi to the brink of closing. One of them garnered national attention with this statement:
- State Representative Bubba Carpenter recently told a group of local county Republicans that “We have literally stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi,” and that “the other side [is] like, ‘Well, the poor pitiful women that can’t afford to go out of state are just going to start doing them at home with a coat hanger.’ That’s what we’ve heard over and over and over. But hey, you have to have moral values.”
Robin Marty has written several articles for RH Reality Check concerning the state of siege in Mississippi. The most recent article included an interview with Dr. Parker who described the anti-abortion protesters in front of Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
- There are episodic periods at other clinics, like the 40 Days, or when people bus in kids, bring in religious youth groups, or have other organized activities where those who don’t normally get the chance to demonstrate their opposition to abortion on a regular basis. But those activists in Mississippi probably feel like they are as close as they have ever been to achieving their goal of shutting down the clinic and making Mississippi an abortion free state. I would say that there is more sense of fervor and sense that victory is just around the corner. In that way, there is a bit more of a targeted effort in Mississippi. But given that there is only one clinic, and people have always been able to target on that one clinic, I think that in other places where there is more than one clinic and people are trying to coordinate activity, in Mississippi there seems to be more of a sense of urgency and a sense of the potential to prevail.
- The protesters are acting under the impression that the closing of the clinic is a done deal. As it gets closer, they are certainly tracking things. They seem to feel that they need to agitate now to push the law forward and that seems to animate them.
The protesters are getting more aggressive and more vocal as the January deadline nears. Operation Save America* is so sure the clinic is closing, they are calling for its followers to protest abortion and witness this historic first “State of Refuge” on January 22, 2013, the 40th anniversary of Roe vs Wade. They will be present at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization instead of going to Washington, DC in January.
Where can the clients in Mississippi go if this clinic closes? We know blocking access to abortion does not reduce the need for abortion. If the clinic closes, the clients will face arranging transportation to adjacent states for abortions. They will have to navigate the restrictions and waiting periods in those states. Many will not be able to afford the trip, the time off from work and the financial burdens this closing will impose upon them.
Words fail me. My thoughts are with the staff and physicians trying to provide needed healthcare to clients in the State of Mississippi. It is with immense respect that I follow news of their dedication and continued fight to keep the only abortion clinic in Mississippi open.
*All links to anti-abortion websites have been omitted purposely. Please use Google or message us separately if you would like a citation for sources.