Abortion advocates vowed at a rally Friday to ensure Mississippians retain access to abortion regardless of what the U.S. Supreme Court decides in the coming days.
Dozens of reproductive rights advocates from Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia traveled to Smith Park in Jackson on a sweltering afternoon for The “D-Day Rally,” organized by the nonprofits SHERo Mississippi and Mississippi in Action.
“That D means that we’re going to continue to defend abortion access and abortion in Mississippi,” Michelle Colón, executive director of SHERo, said in an interview before the rally. “We’re going to continue to be undeterred in our efforts in helping Mississippians navigate through the process in going to clinics if that’s what they want. And we’re going to continue to be the ones to decide our destinies.”
The rally also attracted anti-abortion protesters who frequent the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the state’s sole abortion clinic. They carried signs purporting to show fetuses following abortions and shouted over the speakers through megaphones.
“You women need to go home, and put on some clothes, and serve your husband, and be Godly,” one man yelled at the crowd as Colón took the podium.
“I don’t care what the Supreme Court says,” she said. “Abortion is health care. Abortion saves lives. Abortion is sacred.”
Amanda Furdge, 34, is a mother of three who grew up in Jackson. She moved to Chicago after high school, and only then did she understand that ending a pregnancy is an option people have.
About one in four U.S. women have had an abortion by the time they are 45.
Furdge terminated two pregnancies in Chicago.
“Nobody was in my business,” she said. “It was like a regular doctor appointment.”
Every time she talks publicly about her experience with abortion, she said, “I meet 10 women who say, ‘Me, too.’” In Mississippi, she added, shame stops people from talking about it.
Her experience informed the poem she read at the rally.
“My body / my boat / That only I roe,” she read from the stage.
“I, I, I, my, my, my,” screamed a protester with a megaphone. “You’re selfish!”
“We have heartbeats, too,” she continued.
Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a Mississippi case, has set the stage for the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision granting the constitutional right to abortion. Mississippi initially argued the Supreme Court could uphold the state law at issue in that case – a 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks, but changed its position in 2021 and asked the Court to overturn Roe.
A draft opinion leaked in early May indicated the Court’s conservative majority is prepared to end the constitutional right to abortion in the U.S.
States could then decide on the legality of abortion. In Mississippi, a trigger ban passed in 2007 would almost immediately ban abortions in all cases except when the pregnant woman’s life is in danger or when she was raped and has reported it to law enforcement.
Abortion rights supporters and the protesters at the rally seemed to agree on one thing: The fall of Roe is not the end of the national struggle over abortion.
Ukwuoma Ukairo, caller engagement coordinator at Access to Reproductive Care-Southeast, one of the abortion funds that serves people in Mississippi as well as five other southern states, said that if Roe falls, she anticipates her organization offering “a lot of practical support” as people travel outside the region.
Advocates expect the closest clinic to Jackson if Roe falls will be in Carbondale, Illinois, a nearly seven-hour drive.
Heidi Miller, development manager for the Alabama-based Yellowhammer Fund, another fund that serves Mississippians, said she already sees Southerners forced to travel to Colorado and Washington, D.C. for abortions. She expects that to increase dramatically if Roe falls.
A group of nearly 30 people with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice started their trip to Jackson in Brownsville, Texas. A bus made stops in Hidalgo and Houston before finishing the drive to Mississippi.
“We’re here in solidarity,” said Paula Saldaña, a field organizer who traveled with her children. “This breaks that myth that Latinx and Hispanic people are against abortion.”
Dr. Coleman Boyd, a frequent presence protesting outside the Pink House with members of his family, said he would “love to see Roe overturned, but my hope’s not in Roe.”
“Abortion will end in this nation when the church stands up and establishes justice,” he said. “It’s not dependent on a judge or nine judges. It’s dependent on Christians saying you cannot murder children in our neighborhood.”
State Rep. Zakiya Summers, D-Jackson, who also spoke at the rally, said Mississippi has not done enough to help families.
“Let’s expand access to health care,” she said. “Let’s stop locking up our men and putting them behind cages…
“Let’s hold those accountable who take our precious taxpayer dollars out of the mouths of babies,” she continued, apparently referencing the welfare scandal in which state leaders misspent at least $77 million in federal funds intended for the poor and used the money to bestow gifts and favors.
“If we really cared, those are the things we would be proposing.”
Valencia Robinson, executive director of Mississippi in Action, said she was glad people had traveled from across the country to attend the rally in Jackson.
“We want to show the rest of the country that in Mississippi, there are organizers and supporters here, and work is being done,” she said.