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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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”.
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”.
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.