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.