This clinic stays open!
How did you spend last Saturday? If you are like a lot of people in Kentucky, you went to the Kentucky State Fair. The weather was nice and it was the opening weekend of the fair.
Three Louisville escorts drove a little over 600 miles to join about 100 other people for the rally at Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO). We were representing those in Louisville who could not join, but wanted to support JWHO. Donations from individual members of Kentucky Health Justice Network, Kentucky Support Network, KRCRC, A Fund and escorts made the trip possible for us.
We felt we had to be there to stand with the organizations working in Mississippi to keep the only abortion clinic in the state open. We have been reading about the TRAP law passed in 2012, requiring admitting privileges to local hospitals for the OB/Gyn physicians working at JWHO. The law was designed to close the clinic.
I have been following the Wake Up Mississippi’s Facebook page. When they sent their call out for the rally to support and honor their clinic, I knew we had to go. We have written about Mississippi before in “The Last Abortion Clinic.” We have also written about the States of Refuge** anti-abortion campaign to have abortion-free states. The focus of extreme anti-abortion groups is turning to states with only two abortion clinics now, like Kentucky. We had to stand with JWHO because it was the right thing to do, but also for selfish reasons. It could be Kentucky next asking for people to stand with us. We need to stand together across the country, whenever the call goes out for help, in order to fight further restrictions to abortion access.
The rally was a Mississippi event organized by Wake Up Mississippi, JWHO, The Hell No Campaign, JWHO Clinic Defenders and Mississipi NOW. The people of Mississippi were joined by members of Stop Patriarchy Abortion Rights Freedom Rally as part of their caravan across the country to raise awareness about restrictions to abortion access. They were also joined by a group of clinic escorts from Houston and us from Louisville.
You can read about the rally here, here and here. Reading isn’t the same as being there. It was electrifying and at times very moving. There were speakers from all of the groups present. They even let the Louisville contingent talk. Three introverts speaking in front of so many people was intimidating for me, but I was proud to be a part of the roster of speakers. There was an emotional and personal abortion story shared that brought home the importance of keeping the clinic open and accessible. There were letters read in support of JWHO and abortion access. David Gunn Jr gave a personal speech about his father’s murder in 1993 and his commitment to reproductive rights. I was reminded of his reference to Tom Petty’s song “I Won’t Back Down” in this article and thought it set the theme for the day.
After the speeches, we marched to the front of the sidewalk and demonstrated our commitment to keeping this clinic open. Chants were led and some of the news articles linked above have better sound than my phone recorded. This was the time that was so valuable for all of the participants. We were able to meet and talk to everyone while sharing some lunch. I’m positive we met and talked to people we will have lifelong friendships with, no matter how far apart we are. So many committed, fierce activists in one place! JWHO has lit the fuse for further activism in so many people.
Here are some more photos from the event.
You might be wondering why there aren’t any photos of anti-abortion demonstrators. There weren’t any there. There were two early in the morning, but when they found out there were only going to be activists there and no patients to harass, they went home.
We drove the 600+ miles home, reflecting on the experience and talking about the new friends we had met. It was definitely worth the drive to stand with so many of our “family.” The experience recharged our commitments to abortion access and reproductive justice.
We won’t back down.
*Video and photos were taken by me or were published on the Hell No! on Mississippi 26 and 27 Facebook page. Please be sure to visit their page.
**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.