Opinion | We’re Mississippi’s Last Abortion Clinic, and We’re Braced for the Worst

JACKSON, Miss. — I may see the ache on the affected person’s face as quickly as she walked by means of the door of the abortion clinic the place I work. She was unbearably sick from being pregnant issues and had been in and out of the hospital for weeks. She had simply pushed virtually 200 miles to achieve us as a result of there are so few abortion clinics in the South. Like most of the sufferers who come by means of my clinic, she thought she’d have the ability to get an abortion that day.

I needed to inform her that underneath Mississippi legislation, sufferers like her can not get an abortion on their first go to to a clinic. Instead, they’ve to take a seat by means of state-mandated “counseling” — visits that may take a number of hours. Then they’ve to come back again one other day to get the capsules for their remedy abortion or have their process. Often, sufferers should not capable of make that second appointment till the following week or later as a result of we’re booked up or as a result of they will’t make preparations for baby care or get day off work once more.

The affected person pleaded with me by means of tears, as many do. She didn’t perceive why such legal guidelines exist. “Baby, I don’t make the laws,” I informed her. “But we have to follow them or we’ll get shut down.”

In reality, these layers of state restrictions had been working in opposition to her simply as lawmakers had meant — pushing abortion out of attain, particularly for these struggling to make ends meet. I watched her stroll out after “counseling,” not realizing if I’d see her once more. She made it again to get her abortion the subsequent week, however not all sufferers do.

For 20 years now, I’ve been working at Jackson Women’s Health Organization — which we affectionately name the Pink House as a result of it’s painted bubble gum pink. It was troublesome for girls to get an abortion once I began in 2001, however I had no concept simply how unhealthy issues would get. We are actually the solely abortion clinic remaining in Mississippi.

Three weeks in the past, it turned clear that issues may quickly get a complete lot worse.

When Mississippi’s Legislature handed a ban on virtually all abortions after 15 weeks of being pregnant in 2018, I used to be outraged however not frightened. This ban is plainly unconstitutional underneath Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that mentioned that states can not ban abortion earlier than a fetus is viable exterior the womb, usually round 23 weeks of being pregnant at the earliest. So we sued the state — as now we have earlier than — and the ban has been blocked ever since. I used to be not involved when the state appealed to the Supreme Court. I anticipated the courtroom wouldn’t take up the case.

Then final month, I received a name from my lawyer at the Center for Reproductive Rights. The Supreme Court would hear Mississippi’s attraction, she mentioned. It would rethink whether or not states could ban abortion earlier than the level set forth in Roe.

If the ban is upheld and Roe is reversed, it could make an already terrible state of affairs but extra dire. Women could must drive even farther, throughout a number of states, to get abortion care.

We desperately want — now we have lengthy wanted — Congress to intervene.

If the courtroom reverses Roe and permits states to ban abortion sooner than viability, almost half of the states may take motion to ban abortion, in accordance with the Center for Reproductive Rights. Already, at the very least 10 states have set off legal guidelines in place which might be designed to ban abortion instantly ought to Roe be overturned. We will turn into two separate international locations: one the place girls can management their our bodies and futures, and one the place they can not.

But the reality is, we’re already two separate international locations.

While some states, together with California and New York, have legal guidelines defending abortion rights, the legal guidelines in Mississippi are designed to make abortion exhausting to get and to make clinics like mine tougher to function. There are actually 5 states with only one remaining abortion clinic, in accordance with the Guttmacher Institute, a analysis group that helps abortion rights.

Abortion is totally a racial and financial justice difficulty. A big majority of our sufferers are Black girls like me. The legislatures passing these legal guidelines in Mississippi and different Southern states are largely male and predominantly white. The legal guidelines are inherently racist and classist; they preserve Black and brown individuals down. And the analysis is evident: A lady who’s denied an abortion is extra more likely to stay in poverty even years later.

People who can afford to fly many states over are capable of keep away from this spider internet of legal guidelines. Many of the girls who can’t afford that, who handle to make it by means of our doorways, have spent each penny they’ve and pushed for hours, and needed to take day off work and discover the cash for fuel, a resort and baby care — solely to must power their method by means of a pack of protesters shouting “whore” and “murderer.”

But what actually haunts me are the girls I by no means see — the ones who can’t make it right here.

The potential to regulate your individual physique and future shouldn’t rely on the place you reside, who you might be and how a lot cash you make. But state lawmakers have made that our actuality. And if the Supreme Court overturns Roe, this inequality will probably be vastly magnified.

We want the federal authorities to place an finish to this assault on our rights. We want it to guard abortion entry all over the place, for everybody.

On Tuesday, members of Congress reintroduced a invoice that might do precisely that — the Women’s Health Protection Act. The invoice, which was first launched in 2013 however has by no means been handed, would shield in opposition to state legal guidelines like Mississippi’s two-trip requirement and 15-week ban. It would achieve this by making a statutory proper for well being care suppliers to ship abortion care and a proper for sufferers to obtain that care with out medically pointless restrictions.

If this laws turns into legislation, abortion entry will probably be protected in each state. The legislation would absolutely face stiff authorized pushback from Mississippi and different anti-abortion states, however Congress has handed legal guidelines defending well being care entry, and this one needs to be handled no otherwise.

This yr should be the yr the invoice passes. We have wanted Congress’s assist for a few years, however now we want it greater than ever.

Shannon Brewer is the clinic director at Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the solely abortion clinic in Mississippi.

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