The Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the sole abortion clinic left standing in Mississippi, won a major Supreme Court victory Tuesday after the Court declined to hear Mississippi’s appeal to enforce a state law requiring hospital admitting privileges for doctors performing abortions, similar to the Texas law the Court struck down on Monday. Obtaining hospital admitting privileges is difficult for an out-of-state doctor and next to impossible for an abortion provider in hostile states, such as Mississippi. Instituting this law would mean the closure of Mississippi’s only abortion provider.
“No matter what they’ve tried to do, every day I get to come in here, unlock these doors, and these women still get to come here,” saids Shannon Brewer, director of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization to New York Magazine. “Every day that you open the doors it’s like, Y’all didn’t win today—y’all did not win today.”
Mississippi is hardly the poster-child for effective reproductive health practices. The poorest state in America enforces abstinence-based sex education in public schools, resulting in one of the country’s highest teen pregnancy rates. To combat this public health disaster, the state has thirty-eight crisis pregnancy centers.
In order to get an abortion from Mississippi’s sole abortion provider, a woman, under state law, must receive counseling designed to discourage her from having an abortion twenty-four hours prior to her procedure, requiring two trips to the clinic—two days off work. Health plans through the state’s health exchange cover abortions only in cases of rape, incest or when the woman’s life is endangered, meaning low-income women must come up with the money for the healthcare procedure themselves. Telemedicine, a practice that allows doctors to administer the abortion pill over tele-conference, is prohibited, requiring doctors to physically travel to the hostile state to personally administer the pill to the patients.
Dr. Willie Parker is one of the doctors who travels to the Jackson Women’s Health Clinic to perform abortions. The former medical director of Planned Parenthood has had his home address published on antiabortion websites, regularly receives death threats, and carries a stun gun for his protection.
Parker is legally required by the state to provide his patients with misinformation about the risk of abortion. He always follows up Mississippi’s mandatory recitation of factually inaccurate fear-mongering with the actual information he feels is medically relevant. “I’m required by law to tell you that having an abortion increases your risk for breast cancer,” Dr. Parker begrudgingly recites at the mandatory counseling session. “There is no scientific or medical evidence that supports that.”
“The tactics used by the state of Mississippi to deter and deny women from obtaining abortions are belittling, medically unnecessary, and dangerous,” said Eleanor Smeal, President of Feminist Majority Foundation. “The Jackson Women’s Health Organization saves women’s lives. If women do not have the opportunity to influence their own reproduction, they lose autonomy to control their entire lives, a burden men will never know,” continued Smeal.