While the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade Friday stripping away a woman’s right to an abortion, Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization will continue to provide abortion services at its clinic for as long as is allowed under state law.
“I will tell you this – any patients who contact us we will see them” during the legally allowed time period, said Diane Derzis, the chief executive officer of Jackson Women’s Health Organization. “We will make sure we see them in those 10 days. A woman should not have to leave the state to receive health care.”
A trigger law passed in 2007 makes abortions illegal in Mississippi 10 days after the state attorney general certifies that the Supreme Court had ruled that abortion is no longer a constitutionally guaranteed right nationwide.
On a hot and humid June afternoon, Derzis and others affiliated with the clinic, known as the Pink House, held a news conference located on a busy Jackson street, to lament Friday’s expected but still shocking Supreme Court ruling and to tell Mississippi women that efforts were being made to try to ensure they would still have access to reproductive services.
Speaking via Zoom from New Mexico, Shannon Brewer, the clinic’s executive director, said the anticipation of the Supreme Court ruling had created a chaotic and hectic past week at the Mississippi abortion clinic.
As the ruling was announced, Derzis said the customary number of abortion protesters grew and efforts intensified to prevent patients from entering the clinic. Protesters shouted abortion was no longer legal. A group, known as the Pink House Defenders, helped escort the women to the clinic.
“Today across this country half of the population was stripped of their human rights,” said Derenda Hancock, who has been a defender since 2013. “It is hard to say this, but this is just the beginning … These people are not going to be done until this nation is a theocracy.”
She pointed out that Justice Clarence Thomas opined in the abortion ruling that other issues surrounding privacy, such as contraceptive rights, gay rights and same-sex marriage also should be revisited by the Court.
Derzis said as the situation at the clinic became more chaotic Friday morning law enforcement was called, but there was no response. She did say the FBI recently visited the clinic expressing concern that abortion supporters might commit violence.
Derzis said she had called the FBI multiple times asking for assistance because of concerns that her staff had been threatened and stalked, but got no response from law enforcement.
“We have to go to the polls and take back our rights,” said Derzis as drivers passed by, often hoking their horns, though it was uncertain whether the passers-by were signaling support or opposition for the Pink House.
Speakers at the Friday afternoon news conference said funds were being raised to help provide help for people who might need to leave the state to obtain an abortion. Derzis and Shannon Brewer, the executive director of the Pink House, which is moving to Las Cruces, New Mexico, said the goal is to ensure an infrastructure is put in place to provide aid for Mississippi women who need help obtaining abortions after they are no longer legal in Mississippi. Information on that infrastructure was not available Friday.