Mississippi's Lone Abortion Clinic Doubling Hours to Treat Women From Texas, Louisiana

The only remaining abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi has doubled its hours to see women from Texas and Louisiana after Texas passed its strict abortion law in September, the Associated Press reported.

The Jackson Women's Health Organization, also referred to as the "Pink House," is the only abortion clinic in Mississippi. They've recently had to operate six days a week instead of the usual two to three days a week to accommodate more women from out of state being treated at their clinic.

More women are traveling to the clinic after a new Texas abortion law went into effect in September banning the majority of abortions at around six weeks.

Women from Texas now usually go out of state to receive an abortion. Louisiana clinics are filling up with patients from Texas, so they've had to travel to Mississippi to receive care, the AP reported.

The Pink House is staffed with physicians from out of state because Mississippi physicians haven't been willing to perform abortions there in years, the AP reported.

Women receiving care are usually escorted inside the building as it's not uncommon for protestors to be outside yelling at people as they pass by.

Sharon Lobert, who works as a Clinic Escort, said she's learned to tune out protesters and focus on the patients.

"My strategy is to only pay attention when I think I can deflect their harassment away from one particular woman," Lobert said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Mississippi, Abortion Clinic, Roe v Wade
The Jackson Women's Health Organization, also referred to as the "Pink House", doubled their hours to accommodate more women from out of state being treated at their clinic. Above, a volunteer (L) who escorts patients into the Jackson Women's Health Organization, the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, and pro-life activists wait for patients to arrive on April 5, 2018, in Jackson, Mississippi. Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images

Women or girls who are in the first few weeks of pregnancy received medication to induce abortion. Those who are further along received surgical abortions in one of the clinic's operating rooms.

The clinic is in Jackson's eclectic Fondren neighborhood, a short drive from the Mississippi Capitol, where legislators have been voting to restrict abortion access for decades. On many days, the clinic is enveloped by a cacophony of noise from bullhorn-wielding protesters outside the black iron fence and clinic escorts who blare rock music inside the perimeter.

The scene was similar on Tuesday, when Keith Dalton, pastor of a nondenominational Christian church, raised his voice at men who had driven women there and told a man who sat in a car in the fenced-off parking lot that he would adopt the couple's baby.

"Come on, man ... don't let your child be killed," Dalton yelled. Pointing to the clinic where the man's female companion had gone, he continued: "You want to talk about something that will destroy a relationship? This will destroy your relationship with your girlfriend or fiancée or wife or whatever."

Tanya Britton, a past president of Pro-Life Mississippi, stepped up and said loudly: "In the name of Jesus — have mercy on your child, have mercy on her or him. God loves you and does not desire this for you or your baby."

The Mississippi Health Department website has abortion statistics dating back to 1980. The largest number of abortions in a single year since then was 7,574 in 1991. The smallest was 4,272 in 2015. White people received the most abortions until about the mid-1990s when they were surpassed by Black people.

About 59 percent of Mississippi residents are white, and about 38 percent are Black. During the past five years, about 75 percent of those receiving an abortion in Mississippi were Black and about 21 percent were white. Race was listed as "other" or "unknown" for the rest.

"The right to decide whether or when to have a child is essential for social, economic and racial equality, reproductive autonomy and the right to determine our own future," Robinson said. "Mississippians know what's best for them and their families."

The case being argued before the nation's high court Wednesday is about a 2018 Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The state's Republican attorney general is asking the court — remade with three conservative justices nominated by former President Donald Trump — to use the case to overturn Roe v. Wade, the court's 1973 ruling that declared a nationwide right to abortion.

The Supreme Court has never allowed states to ban abortion before viability, the point at roughly 24 weeks when a fetus can survive outside the womb.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the court early Wednesday ahead of the arguments, their opposing positions marked by signs that included "Her Body Her Choice" and "God Hates the Shedding of Innocent Blood."

"I just hope that the Supreme Court holds precedent on what they're supposed to be doing, but my hopes are not that high," the Mississippi clinic director, Shannon Brewer, said Tuesday from Washington.

Brewer said she has never been more concerned about abortion rights in the U.S. than she is now.

She has good reason: The Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights, says that if Roe v. Wade were overturned or fundamentally weakened, 21 states have laws or constitutional amendments "that would make them certain to attempt to ban abortion as quickly as possible."

Mississippi is one of the states with an abortion ban that was set before Roe and would take effect if that precedent is overturned. Republican Governor Tate Reeves spoke Sunday at "Pray Together for Life," an event hosted by the Family Research Council.

"Abortion is barbaric," Reeves declared. "Abortion is evil. It's probably the greatest evil of our day."

Reeves noted that he presided over the Mississippi Senate in 2018 and helped push the bill with the 15-week abortion ban to the desk of then-Governor Phil Bryant, a fellow Republican.

Like Bryant, Reeves often says he wants to make Mississippi the safest place in America for unborn children. Yet, Mississippi has the highest infant mortality rate and one of the highest rates of births to teenage mothers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Valencia Robinson is executive director of Mississippi In Action, an organization that supports abortion rights and works on other sexual health issues. She said restricting access to abortion disproportionately hurts Black women who are more likely to live in poverty.

A Supreme Court decision is likely months away. As both abortion-rights and anti-abortion activists anxiously wait to see how justices will rule, the clinic will continue operating. Given heightened security concerns amid the court hearing, however, Brewer said she would not allow the Associated Press or other news organizations inside this week. In the past, she has allowed the AP inside the building, which has a small waiting room with magazines and free condoms and a conference room where groups of women receive state-mandated counseling at least 24 hours before an abortion.

Mississippi, Abortion Clinic, Roe v Wade
Long-time Mississippi anti-abortion activist Tanya Britton pulls down some of the protective drapings that mask the iron security bars, outlining the Jackson Women's Health Organization, to observe the patients entering the Jackson Women's Health Organization, a state-licensed abortion clinic in Jackson, Mississippi, Tuesday, November 30, 2021. On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that directly challenges the constitutional right to an abortion established nearly 50 years ago. Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo