Mississippi’s last abortion clinic closed on July 6, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade and ending the constitutional right to abortion. Abortion is now illegal in the state except in rare cases, and Mississippi doctors believe even people who are pregnant as a result of rape will struggle to access the procedure because physicians will fear potential legal consequences. 

The country’s abortion rate has declined steadily since the early 1990s, but a 2017 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that 24% of American women will have an abortion by the time they are 45.

Mississippi Today spoke with four Mississippians about their abortions and their reactions to the end of legal abortion in Mississippi and other states around the country. 

Rebecca Meador poses for a portrait near her home Monday, July 25, 2022. Credit: Eric Shelton/Mississippi Today

Rebecca Meador, 42

Meador got an abortion at the Pink House in 2000. She had recently given up a son for adoption.

I feel a real sense of urgency to tell as many people as possible: This is what happened. And it’s not because I just chose to end a pregnancy. It’s because I was in an impossible situation where my life was in danger. It’s just a complex set of issues that I think a lot of people don’t bother to really consider. 

I was 18 when I found out I was pregnant and 19 when I gave birth. I knew there was no option for me to be able to raise this baby. My first decision was, I’m gonna have to have an abortion. And I was completely devastated. It was like I was living in a fog of despair. The last thing I wanted to do was have an abortion. Then (my manager at work) was like, “you don’t have to have an abortion. You can place the baby for adoption.” That was the first time that clicked with me.

I was so relieved. There was another option. I didn’t have to end this pregnancy in this way. We (the adoptive parents and I) met there at the adoption agency … We just really clicked. So that was a positive experience for me. 

The postpartum depression was very severe. That took several months for me to recover from. I got prescription psych meds for it. Then I was just dealing with the grief of placing Jake (my son). 

I don’t know what they think, that it’s just so easy to grow a person inside your body and give birth to it and give it away? You just go home and have a milkshake and go back to work? Maybe for some women, and probably for some women, it’s not traumatic. Maybe it’s something they’re able to recover from and find a place of mental stability and they move on. But it’s not the case for me. Certainly I don’t think that the agoraphobia and extremes of postpartum depression that I experienced, that’s probably not normal. But it’s probably not extraordinary either. 

There are a lot of reasons why people cannot just place a baby for adoption. It’s not like returning a book to the library. It’s a really big deal.

Finding myself in the place of being pregnant again (in 2000)… looking back on it now, I’m 42, and I have so much sympathy for myself (then) and so much love for myself. I really just was pretty psychologically broken, as it relates to how to have a healthy regard for valuing my own sexuality and, like, saying no and not being in that kind of a relationship. I just didn’t have those skills back then. I just was not in that place. I didn’t have health insurance. I didn’t have prescription birth control all the time.

I was living in Starkville. I went to the library and got a Jackson phone book. I looked in the Yellow Pages under abortion. 

There was a girl that was in (the clinic) with me that I went to high school with. That was notable to me. We weren’t really close. We were acquaintances … In a way it was nice to see a face that I knew but also in a way it was a little awkward. Like oh, we’re both in here. We’re both doing this. But you know, we really just each kept to ourselves. We smiled and said hello to each other. 

I think that’s another thing that people who are (anti-abortion) don’t really understand or think about. Nobody that gets an abortion is like skipping and jumping – “tralalalala, I’m getting an abortion today.” That’s not happening. Nobody shows up to the abortion clinic having the best day of their life. This is, like, the worst thing ever. And it is shameful, especially in Mississippi and it’s embarrassing for a lot of people. And it’s so personal and so private and then so to see somebody that you went to high school with in a way is like – no! This is the last thing that I want to, like, share with my high school buddy.

But it was also a little bit comforting. This weird double-edged sword. Oh, there’s somebody I know in there. We’re all having the worst day of our lives. 

I sent (a written version of my story) to every member of the state Legislature. Every member of the House and every member of the Senate, and I also sent it to the governor’s office and the attorney general’s office. And I also sent it to the offices of the chancery court where the lawsuit was. I heard back from two people, just one-sentence emails that I got back. They were both like, “I agree. And a woman’s body is her choice.” 

I was at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson the Sunday after the Supreme Court decision came out, and David Strain, who is the lead pastor there, during the pastoral prayer before the sermon, he was rejoicing and praising God for the decision that there wouldn’t be any more baby murders. Basically called me a baby murderer. He didn’t call me by name of course. But I just got up and went out. It was too much for me to process. I was just trying to be at church, and was getting called a baby murderer. 

I don’t know how to not talk about it. If I don’t talk about this, these people who think they know how to legislate women and legislate health care – they don’t get it. We have real struggles going on in our lives. 

Sonnie Bane, 30 

Sonnie Bane poses for a portrait outside of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, July 6, 2022. The clinic must stop providing abortions after a judge refused to block the state’s trigger law from taking effect. Credit: Eric Shelton/Mississippi Today

Bane got an abortion at the Pink House in late 2016. 

I was in a very long-term, six-year, seven-year abusive relationship. It was just not something that I wanted. It’s not like I was trying to get pregnant. It just happens. It wasn’t the easiest decision for me to make. I am very pro-choice, always have been, but when it is you, it just feels a little bit different sometimes. I’m very proud of my decision.

Coming here, I’ve known a lot of the escorts and the clinic workers for a long time, like Ms. Derenda (Hancock, one of the founders of the volunteer clinic escort service) is like one of my biggest idols. I just trusted her enough to guide me through the process. She helped me get the information for any funding. I got help from one of the people that are local here (the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund). 

There were so many people out on the streets whenever I was coming up here for every single visit. This was like six years ago. They always said the Pink House is an island on its own. The protesters definitely made it feel like it. 

This place really just saved my life. I was not ready. I was not in a good place. It would not have been a healthy relationship to have kids. I do eventually want one. But I wouldn’t be the same person, and I love who I am today. I have a great job, I have a good relationship, everything is just aligning. And if I didn’t do that … I don’t think I would still be here. 

I also found out that I was Rh negative (a blood cell status that can affect pregnancy) here, and I didn’t know that previously. This place has done so much for me. I got birth control here for years.

I feel like my dog has more rights than me now. It’s my body. I don’t think anybody should tell me what I can and can’t do.

It’s not like there are just countless women that are out here getting pregnant and doing it for fucking fun. Excuse my language. I don’t know anybody that would want to do this for fun. It’s hard. 

I did the pill, and I was in pain for four hours. No, it’s not fun. For some women, it is their only option. I don’t know anybody’s situation. I can’t say that they are wrong or anything no matter how many times they get an abortion. Everybody’s different. 

A., mid-20s

A. got a medication abortion at the Pink House in early June 2022, about a month before the clinic closed. Mississippi Today granted A. anonymity at her request.

I’m young, and I already have children. I’m a single mother. And it’s already basically hard for me. I’ve barely got my head above water, with the high gas prices, and basically we’re in a recession, they just don’t want to admit it … I think it would be selfish to bring another child into this world and I’m knowing that I’m not able, physically or emotionally or mentally.

And you have some people who just don’t want children. It’s not a sin not to want children. You have some people who may get raped or just in some type of situation where they can’t have a child right now. It’s really a good thing what they’re doing in there. But you got some people who don’t care. They’d rather you have a child. No matter how much they stand outside and say we can help you, they don’t really care about you. They don’t. They just want you to have a child just so it won’t be on their conscience.

I knew I couldn’t go through (pregnancy and delivery) again. I have three. One deceased, two still living. I knew that I couldn’t do it again.

I actually want to get my tubes tied. I said to (my doctor), “I wanna get my tubes tied.” He said, “What if you wanna get married and have more kids?” It’s like, “who said I want to get married?

“I’m going to be firm: We just need to schedule a date. I don’t care about what you think. This is not about you. This is about me.”

I would go (if the nearest clinic were in southern Illinois). Having to take off work, get finances in order, however I would have got there, find a hotel, get my kids situated. It would have made it 10 times harder. 

Even if (the anti-abortion protesters) do help, it’s not long term. They’re not gonna be able to help you with housing, childcare. Where I work now, I make $15 an hour. It’s still not enough. If I didn’t have this health insurance, there is no way I can go out and afford health insurance. That health insurance, it’s full of crap too. It’s barely enough. For a consultation at the dentist, I still had to pay $100 out of pocket.

We all sin every day. Some people think whatever they do, God worships the ground they walk on.

Kavi, 30

Photo courtesy of Kavi.

Kavi ended a pregnancy in Iowa when she was 19. She now lives in Mississippi. 

I was 19. I was in my sophomore year of college. I was in a really bad place in that I was in a very abusive relationship, I was becoming estranged from my family, I was in active addiction and alcoholism. And so there were a million and one reasons why my period would have been late. To top it off I had some spotting in between when I was pregnant and it just seemed normal. There was nothing that really tipped me off that I was pregnant until I started feeling, like, morning sickness. So I decided to go in and get checked when I was having a particularly bad bout of spotting. So I went into Planned Parenthood. 

And they were able to do an exam and found out that I was pregnant, but the fetus was not viable, like there was no heartbeat, and the tissue was starting to decompose and that’s what my discharge and spotting was. 

And it was just a messy day. I went in thinking that they would give me a pap smear or something and send me on my way.

I was really lucky in that it was not a very busy Planned Parenthood or a very busy day for them. So I was able to talk to a doctor right away … I was given the medication for a medication abortion that day along with antibiotics, and I think anti-inflammatory pills. 

I did not feel any judgment from the clinic workers or anybody. I was very lucky. I was down at the Pink House over the weekend (the first weekend in July, right before it closed)). And seeing all those protesters, the antis, it made me feel so so bad, because I did not have to walk past any of that. I didn’t have to listen to people tell me how terrible of a person I was, for making that choice. 

If it was a viable pregnancy, it’s still the choice that I would have made, because there’s no way that I could have carried a healthy pregnancy as an addict. 

And so what it meant to me was a chance to get out of that abusive relationship, a chance to continue my education, to get clean and sober, to just see the world, to do so many things that … people don’t realize you give up when you start a family or raise a child.

I never really thought of myself as somebody who had gone through that, because I felt like I did not have to make that hard choice … Like I wasn’t somebody who had an abortion. I was somebody that an abortion happened to. 

But when I look at people now, especially in the state of Mississippi, who are losing access to that health care, it breaks my heart, because I know that there are people who start off disadvantaged in the first place, due to poor quality public education, due to underfunding, maybe not the most socioeconomically stable environment. 

One thing that really rubs me the wrong way is when people are saying, you shouldn’t use abortion as birth control. I was using two forms of contraception when I got pregnant. I was using a hormonal method and a barrier method. I know that statistically that is so unlikely but I mean– the pill can be up to (99%) effective, if used exactly properly. Because I had access to primary health care at that point, I had birth control.

I had the ability, the time, the resources and the will to be (at the Pink House for a few days after the ruling) … I needed those anti protesters, those anti-abortionists, to have to look me in the face. I needed them to see that it is affecting people, even if they don’t consider me a person or worthy of consideration.

They needed to see that there are people who will fight for this. That fight’s not done. I will continue. My husband and I are already talking about starting to save up gas money so we can volunteer to be drivers to Pink House West in New Mexico, or to the clinic in Illinois. 

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Isabelle, an Atlanta native, covers health as part of Mississippi Today’s community health team. Prior to joining Mississippi Today, she was a reporter for the Biloxi Sun Herald and a Report for America corps member.