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!

The New York Times Sums it Up

 “If you opt out of the fight when rights are being stripped from impoverished women, rural women, women of color, women who are far away from you, but envision yourself charging in if the right wing ever comes for people like you, you’re not fighting for a principle — you’re fighting for yourself.”

This recent OpEd in the New York Times says so many things that needed to be said about the current state of abortion rights in this country.

Jackson Women’s Health Organization and it’s constant struggles are highlighted, as is the fact that in the states where abortion is most under siege and have one provider – that provider is independent.  When people think about abortion rights in this country, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a big, national corporation.  But the clinics that are standing tall and defying all the attacks from their local and state government officials are small and full of defiant activists.  The staff of Jackson Women’s Health Organization and the people who stand outside defending it are local people helping local people.  They are home grown.  They are basically the “mom and pop” clinics that have done what they do for so long, it doesn’t even occur to them how monumental their efforts are.

We say all that to say – support your small, local provider.  They are the ones who stand alone and mostly unnoticed.  They are the ones who most need to hear words of encouragement or just a simple, “Thank You”.

 

Clinic widens challenge of Mississippi abortion restrictions

On Monday, the only clinic in Mississippi put on some boxing gloves and with the help of some pretty fantastic lawyers decided take on the government.  The list of laws people here have to deal with is long.  These laws are unfair and unsubstantiated by any science or research.  The laws require women to make two visits to the facility to obtain an abortion, they require two parent consent for a minor to have an abortion, they require the doctor to give patient false information about bogus risks associated with the procedure, and on and on.  As the owner of the clinic Diane Derzis said, “These laws are designed for one purpose only, and that’s to put us out of business as well as removing a woman’s right to decide her future”.

Check out full coverage here. 

And if you want to see a sad, sad picture of Governor “I want Mississippi to be the safest place in America for an unborn child,” (note the glaring omission of wanting Mississippi to be the safest place for a woman), click here.

Feel free to post words of encouragement for the staff below.  It gets lonely being an abortion provider in Mississippi! We would love to hear from any supporters out there.