Mississippi Officially Becomes Battleground to Overturn Roe

 

The news we have been waiting for finally came today.  The Supreme Court announced this morning that they would review the Mississippi law that bars abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.   This may sound like a “common sense” restriction on abortion, but the outcome of this case could effectively determine whether ALL pre-viability bans on elective abortions violate the Constitution.  Since 15 weeks is so drastically and blatantly before viability, if the Supreme court upholds the ban passed by the Mississippi Legislature in 2018, the decision would open the door for ALL states to pass bans at ANY point before viability.

The clinic, staff, and doctors are committed to continuing to provide services to the people who come to us for care- many of whom now come to us from surrounding states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, and Louisiana because of lack of services in those states.   With the hearing for this case expected in the fall, time suddenly seems like it’s running out.  Thank you to everyone out there who has sent us messages of love, support, and power – we hear you!

Today’s response from our law firm and clinic owner:

Supreme Court to Hear Abortion Ban Case Challenging Roe v. Wade

This case presents a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and is the first pre-viability abortion ban the Court will rule on since Roe 

 

5.17.2021 – (PRESS RELEASE) Today, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Mississippi’s request to review a case challenging the state’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. These kind of bans on abortion prior to viability have been unconstitutional since 1973, when the Supreme Court decided the landmark case Roe v. Wade. In this case, the Court has agreed to consider the question as to whether all pre-viability prohibitions on abortion are unconstitutional.

The challenge to Mississippi’s 15-week ban was brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the law firm Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, and the Mississippi Center for Justice on behalf of Jackson Women’s Health Organization—the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi. The state of Mississippi asked the Supreme Court to take this case after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law in December 2019. 

Statement from Diane Derzis, owner of Jackson Women’s Health Organization—the sole abortion clinic in Mississippi:

“As the only abortion clinic left in Mississippi, we see patients who have spent weeks saving up the money to travel here and pay for childcare, for a place to stay, and everything else involved. If this ban were to take effect, we would be forced to turn many of those patients away, and they would lose their right to abortion in this state. Mississippi politicians have created countless barriers for people trying to access abortion, intentionally pushing them later into pregnancy. It’s all part of their strategy to eliminate abortion access entirely.”

Statement from Nancy Northup, President & CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

Alarm bells are ringing loudly about the threat to reproductive rights. The Supreme Court just agreed to review an abortion ban that unquestionably violates nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent and is a test case to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The consequences of a Roe reversal would be devastating. Over 20 states would prohibit abortion outright. Eleven states—including Mississippi—currently have trigger bans on the books which would instantaneously ban abortion if Roe is overturned. Already, abortion is nearly impossible to access for people in states like Mississippi, where lawmakers have been chipping away at the right to abortion for decades. We will keep fighting to make sure that people do not lose this fundamental right to control their own bodies and futures.”

For now, abortion remains legal in Mississippi and the ban will remain blocked as the Supreme Court reviews the case. Mississippi passed their 15-week ban in 2018, followed by a 6-week ban in 2019. Twelve other states have passed unconstitutional abortion bans at various points in pregnancy since 2019, and each ban that has been challenged has  been subsequently struck down: Alabama; Arkansas; Georgia; Kentucky; Louisiana; Montana, Missouri; Ohio; Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee; and Utah. In 2016, the Supreme Court denied petitions for certiorari on two abortion ban cases appealed by North Dakota (six-week ban) and Arkansas (12-week ban). Abortion bans threaten the health, rights, and lives of people of color and low-income people disproportionately, as they already face more hurdles when accessing abortion.

 

Court to weigh in on Mississippi abortion ban intended to challenge Roe v. Wade

Spring is here, and excitement is in the air!

 

Things around here are feeling a little hopeful and exciting.  We are gearing up to start interviewing applicants for the 1st annual In The House! Summer Internship – 2021.  We were honored to see the dedication and bad-ass-ed-ness shown by the applicants, and we can’t wait to sit down and get to know them in the next few weeks.  So, although things outside seem daunting and dark sometimes, things inside the Pink House are feeling a little hopeful right now as we look to the future.

A Little Holiday Cheer for 2020

We all know what kind of a year 2020 has been, let’s just say it hasn’t had much cheer.  The Pink House Fund was honored to be able to spread some holiday cheer to the staff and doctors that deliver high quality abortion care to Mississippi families with some gift cards and chocolate.  We hope you all have a good holiday season, hang in there, and we will make it through this together.  Thank you for all your support this past year.  Your words and your support are appreciated and part of the fire that keeps the Pink House going. 

The Long Summer and Something to Think About

Whew!  We don’t know how the rest of y’all feel, but for us here in Mississippi this felt like the longest summer.  We don’t have to tell anyone reading this blog that the coerced resignation of Justice Kennedy in the middle of this sh*t storm of a presidency threw us for a bit of a loop.  Like everyone else out there, we knew it could happen.  But seeing the stark reality of pale-faced and pompous Kavanaugh sitting in front of the U.S. Senate has brought Mississippi’s pending reality into light.

Last week, The Daily Beast put into words what we have always known:  Mississippi and the laws that our state legislature pass restricting abortion are “seen as a trial balloon for dismantling Roe v.Wade, the 1973 ruling protecting a right to abortion.”  This past legislative session it was the “Gestational Age Act” banning abortions in our state past 15 weeks’ gestation.  Lawyers for Jackson Women’s Health Organization managed to get a temporary restraining order barring the implementation of the law until a federal court rules on its constitutionality.  Louisiana soon followed suit by passing their own 15 week ban, openly admitting they must wait to implement it until a ruling on Mississippi’s new law is handed down.

See, what happens in Mississippi affects THE ENTIRE COUNTRY.

We know most people don’t pay any attention to what goes on in our state.  We know we are basically invisible, considered the radical fringe of America –  our reality is so anathema to anything most American liberals could imagine living with that we are nothing more than a blip on their radar. But an article on Slate.com this week pointed out that lower-court judges are already feeling emboldened by the pending confirmation of Kavanaugh and the resulting radical right-wing shift of the highest court in the land.

On Monday morning, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an astonishing decision upholding a law that’s virtually identical to an anti-abortion measure the Supreme Court struck down in Whole Woman’s Health v. HellerstedtThe three-judge panel, composed entirely of Republican appointees (including a Trump judge), essentially defied the Supreme Court in allowing Missouri to saddle abortion clinics with pointless regulations designed to guarantee their closure. It’s a preview of how the courts will overturn Roe—swiftly, ruthlessly, and dishonestly—once Kavanaugh is confirmed.

 

What this all means is that activist judges in lower courts are waiting with bated breath to rule in favor of radical anti-abortion laws passed in states like Mississippi.  These judges are ready to push the envelope all the way up to the Supreme Court on whatever non-scientific, junk-science, junk-morality, junk-we-just-want-to-protect-women, B.S. laws that come out of Mississippi’s next legislative session.

Mississippi should not…..CAN NOT be ignored right now.  Like it or not, what happens here stands to affect the future of the people in this country for decades.  We at The Pink House Fund envision a 2019 Mississippi legislative session riddled with protests and outcries from folks all across the nation.  We envision busloads of supporters in waves, week after week, marching through the streets of Jackson, standing strong on the steps of the capitol with messages of unity and power. What if?????  What if the country rallied en masse in the state where hope was forgotten and stopped this runaway train of radical anti-abortion legislation before it even started?

Because as Mississippi goes, so goes the nation.

Just something for us all to think about.

The Fleecing of Mississippi Women

We are going to repost this blog written about the only clinic in Mississippi.  It was hard to write and come out about, and we are pretty sure that no one really wants to hear it— but it’s true, and, if anything, we have to remain true to ourselves because we frequently stand alone.

Will Anyone Hear Us?

For many years, the staff at Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Mississippi has been grappling with a disturbing situation.  While we’ve been embroiled in the day-to-day struggle of providing abortion care, we have watched large, non-profit abortion rights/reproductive justice/abortion fund organizations raise money with the stated purpose that this money will assist women in Mississippi seeking abortions.

See, our clinic is in a unique position in the world of abortion funds/charity and accountability.  As the only clinic in the state, we see every penny that goes from an abortion fund toward the actual cost of an abortion procedure in Mississippi.  And we are sorry to have to come here today to report, it ain’t very much.

This article in The American Prospect titled “How Democratic Socialists Helped Propel Abortion Funds to Record Fundraising Levels And focused on places—like Mississippi—where funding for abortions is hard to find” was the last straw for us in deciding if we should go public.  In the article, it is revealed that people from around the country have donated a total of $34,000 to the only “abortion fund” in Mississippi. To put things in perspective, over the last few years our patients have only very sporadically been assisted by this fund.  This year has been a continuance of the same pattern we’ve seen for many years – the fund has given $150, one time, to one patient in our clinic in all of 2018.

Yes, we understand that “abortion funds” say they are assisting patients who may have to go out of state for their abortions; we understand they claim to provide other nebulous, less verifiable assistance such as child care, food, travel, lodging.  But our patients, the ones coming in to the only abortion clinic in the state, are not seeing this assistance.  Our patients report not being able to get anyone to answer the phone at the local fund and when someone does answer the phone they say there are no funds left to give.

It’s not just local funds that take money in the name of Mississippi women and then never deliver. Years ago, we were approached by a group that said they were going to solicit creative architectural drawings nationwide and donate a new fence outside our facility. The purpose of the fence was to put an effective, attractive barrier between our patients and the screaming protesters.  This group raised money for the project, had a big fund raiser in New York City where they showed all the various architectural submissions for the fence design, and then disappeared.  We have no idea if money was raised for the fence, and if so, no idea where it went.

The last six months, we have quietly tried to make organizations aware that there is a serious problem with all the various funds that are fundraising for abortion in the state and nationally. We have been dismissed, shhhhh’d, and gaslighted at every turn by the various individuals and organizations we have expressed concerns to. We have been treated by our “allies” exactly as we are treated on the ground here in Jackson by the police and local government.  We are a nuisance, trouble-makers…. amateurs.   The abortion clinic is a necessary evil to be dealt with on the periphery, and only if absolutely pushed.

We’ve heard some pretty astounding statements from various groups and fund raisers who are responsible for taking in money and making excuses for why it never actually goes toward helping women obtain abortion services in Mississippi:

·         “We don’t like to go public with situations like this because it could be used by the anti’s.”

·         “There’s no reason to go public with this; there’s plenty of money to go around.”

·         “We also have commitments to our strategic plan to build leadership, build sustainable member organizations, strengthen connectivity within our network and engage in movement building around our political and cultural agenda by beginning to organize and activate the hundred thousand people that call abortion funds across the country.”

Basically: let’s keep this quiet, if you want some money to stay quiet we can arrange that, and we spend donated monies on building up our base in the form of salaries and administrative fees at the top and on the ground.

This stinks.  It’s demoralizing and depressing.  But this is the truth.

If the situation is that donors around the country send money in the name of paying toward abortion fees to various groups only to make themselves feel good and don’t actually care if the money goes toward helping Mississippi women pay for their abortion, that’s one thing.

If the situation is that donors around the country send money in the name of paying toward abortion fees to various groups because they feel deeply moved with compassionate empathy for the struggle of the women and families we see every day and genuinely want these patients to SEE the funds donated, then this situation is a CRIME.

If anyone out there is listening and cares to hear us we would simply say this: Please be careful where you donate your abortion fund money.  Chances are the money you send, whether to a small, local fund or a big, national fund, is going either to administrative fees at the top of the organization, or to an individual with absolutely no oversite or financial reconciliation – who may or may not be putting the funds toward abortions.

We at Jackson Women’s Health Organization are inundated with unimaginable challenges and responsibilities. But, we take very seriously the responsibility of protecting abortion access in Mississippi and we appreciate all your good intentions in making these donations to these various groups.  We will continue to fight to try and make sure these donations make it where they were intended –  to the women of Mississippi -even if it means pissing off “our own” establishment.

 

Southern states “legally” funnel funds to right wing law firms.

We here at the PHF like to remind the country that our anti-abortion laws are trend setters for the rest of the country when it comes to outlawing abortion on the state level. Louisiana is still in a legal holding pattern with a bunch of newly passed, unconstitutional laws because they are awaiting the legal outcomes of lawsuits filed by Jackson Women’s Health against new unconstitutional legislation passed here this year.
This article, which is a text book quality piece of investigative journalism, is an in depth look at the fleecing of the citizens of Louisiana. The poorest states in the U.S. such as Mississippi and Alabama allow their governments to spend millions of dollars pushing/defending a personal/religious/political agenda while refusing to expand Medicaid to assist the poorest and most vulnerable citizens in their populations. And the legal dollars don’t just NOT GET spent on citizens, the money gets FUNNELED to right wing lawyers for legal services! 

“Of the at least $1.14 million the state has paid out in private attorneys on the cases, the contracts show roughly 80 percent of the money has gone to firms led by Kyle Duncan, a prominent religious-rights attorney who was recently confirmed to a seat on a federal appeals court in New Orleans after a nomination from President Donald Trump.  Duncan referred questions to the attorney general’s office.”


We need more outrage in the south right now folks.

 

Last Abortion Clinic In Mississippi Practices Daily Despite Knowing No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

A week ago, the doctor and staff at the only abortion clinic in Mississippi faced an unimaginable medical emergency: a woman who was receiving an ultrasound gave birth to a full-term baby.  When our doctor realized the infant was in the crowning stage of birth, they informed the staff and the patient that she was having a baby right then and right there.  The staff reacted calmly on their feet, called an ambulance, and stood by to watch as within minutes our doctor safely and skillfully delivered a beautiful, healthy baby girl.

The protesters outside were whipped into a frenzy when they saw the ambulance and proceeded to call the local newspaper to have them “investigate” why a “live birth” had occurred at our facility. Seeing that the protesters were intent on warping this situation, we answered basic questions to the media and thought to ourselves: Finally! The world will see that abortion providers don’t have an opinion on whether someone should have an abortion, we just want to provide women with quality medical care without judgement or shame.

Of course, that’s not how the narrative went, so our staff would like to share some lessons we hope the general public will learn from this event:

  • The protesters standing outside, screaming unimaginable things at our patients, are eagerly awaiting, with cameras, any kind of call for an ambulance – abortion related or not – from our facility.  The virulently anti-abortion site Operation Rescue is already bragging online about how they “filed a formal complaint yesterday with the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure seeking an investigation “into our facility.  This should boggle the mind of anyone reading right now.  How could anti-abortion protesters turn something clearly demonstrating our medical abilities and caring sensitivities into something that should be a complaint filed with the Board of Medicine?  THIS is the life we lead as abortion providers.  We have a constant target on our backs.  We know if an ambulance is called to our facility for any reason – maybe a patient’s guest had a seizure in the lobby, maybe a staff member had a concussion and got dizzy while working, or maybe there is an actual known, rare, abortion complication – any reason will be an excuse to launch a campaign of calls and complaints against us.

Which brings me to my second point:

  • For decades, abortion providers have existed as the moving targets of American medicine.  For twenty years, a doctor I work with who I admire for his bed-side manner, great skill, and humanity would look at me almost daily and say, “no good deed goes unpunished”. Our every move is not only under intense scrutiny, but can and will be misconstrued publicly to affect a national movement to eradicate abortion in America.  If it sounds like a gigantic burden for a few people to carry on their shoulders, it was and is.  Abortion clinic workers are literal moving targets as doctors and staff have been publicly harassed, stalked, and assassinated.  We are figurative moving targets as our motives are under constant scrutiny by the public, society at large, and other members of the medical community.

Which brings me to my final point:

  • We are an independent, local clinic. We are our community.  When our staff sees a young woman suddenly deliver a baby in front of their eyes because she received no prenatal care and had no idea how far in the pregnancy she was, they see their sisters, mothers, neighbors, selves. Our staff know, if only in the back of their minds, that their state has the highest infant mortality rate in the country and one of the highest maternal mortality rates.  This is our reality, which makes us even more proud when we know that for one woman and one baby we were able to impact those numbers in the positive – even if we will never get recognized for it.

So as the weeks go on, we slowly forget about the good deed we were given to perform. We still smile with some pride, but we also wait and remember the caveat:  in the world of abortion provision, no good deed goes unpunished.

Adopting Children to Use as Pawns in Abortion Wars

Protester uses his adopted child as a prop in his anti-abortion propaganda campaign.

 

Yesterday, The National Abortion Federation released the annual violence against abortion provider report for 2017, and the numbers aren’t pretty.  Since Trump came into office “death threats against providers and patients nearly doubled”, and “the incidents of trespassing and obstruction at clinics approximately tripled”.  And while The Pink House usually sees much more aggressive protesting than most clinics due to the overwhelmingly hostile political climate in our state, this past week we have been dealing with an escalating situation.

One of our regular protesters recently went on a mission trip to Thailand, and since he’s been back he has been more aggressive than ever.  He’s brought a ladder, a megaphone, and his 7 biological children and 3 adopted children and has begun a calculated and systematic campaign of harassment.  The police say there’s nothing they can do.  So, he’s lording over our privacy fence, just feet away from the patients, dangling his adopted children of color as he spews his words of judgement and fear and shame at ear piercing decibels on his megaphone.

There’s no place like Mississippi, that’s for sure.  The land where children are pawns and props and women are shamed for accessing basic healthcare services such as abortion.

We promise we are working on some exciting anti-stigma awareness campaigns across Mississippi as we write this.  We are about to get real damn loud.

Protester’s 10 children stand guard as he lords over patients on a ladder.

 

 

Legislators Turn a Blind Eye to Health Disparities

We were very glad to see this article in the Jackson Clarion Ledger highlighting the disparities in care and *actual* health care atrocities happening to black mothers in Mississippi. The lack of concern for women before, during, and after pregnancy in the state contradicts the blatant lie of our legislators that they wish to legislate abortion out of existence to “protect” women.

Some of the most shocking facts in the article:

  • In Mississippi, mothers have a significant chance of experiencing a pregnancy-related maternal death, which has increased by nearly 3 times since 2015.
  • In 2012, the most recent data available, the white pregnancy-related maternal death rate was 29.3 percent compared to 55 percent among black mothers.
  • Mississippi has the second highest rate of fetal death among all the states, and it remains highest among blacks.

This is unacceptable! On Friday May 4, 2018 you can join the March for Moms at the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson and make your voices heard.

We must keep talking about justly investing in the health and welfare of all our citizens.

Accountability

So what is the story around the creation, the genesis, of The Pink House Fund? The Pink House Fund was created by folks working with the only abortion provider in the state of Mississippi.  We created the fund after being woken up by a pretty loud wakeup call.

In early 2017, we saw an email being spread across the country among abortion rights supporters highlighting charitable work being done for Mississippi abortion patients by a group here in Jackson, MS.  The email went on to ask for more donations in the name of women seeking abortions in Mississippi, promising to deliver financial assistance to patients for travel, food, childcare, and even toward the abortion procedure itself.

As the only clinic in the entire state seeing the majority of patients in Mississippi, we knew first hand we were not seeing any patients being helped by this group.

It was at this point that we opened our eyes and took a good look around.  And what we saw were a lot of groups and organizations raising money in the name of abortion patients in Mississippi.  We asked ourselves, if our patients aren’t receiving help from all the donations flowing into Mississippi, who is? And it made us angry.

We know that people care about what happens to women and families in Mississippi.  We know that if someone gives a group or organization a donation, they trust that donation will go to helping patients or the movement make a difference.

With this Fund, we plan to hold groups/organizations accountable who claim to assist Mississippi women – either through direct funding or through more large-scale, nebulous ways.  We will use our real life experiences and voices as defenders of abortion in Mississippi, and work to destigmatize, defend, and deliver what others have not.

Thank you for your support!