Thursday, November 17, 2005
So, Mississippi might lose the last clinic offering abortions. As a Planned Parenthood article writes, "When the Jackson Women's Health Clinic (not affiliated with Planned Parenthood) first opened its doors in 1995, there were still four clinics in Mississippi that offered abortion services. But since last August, the Jackson clinic has been the only one to serve the entire state."
Fertile Ground for Restricting Access
Hill had good reason to be pessimistic. Mississippi has one of the most anti-choice atmospheres of any state in the U.S.:
* The Democratic Party in Mississippi claims itself a "party of life."
* Eighty-six percent of Mississippi women live in a county without an abortion provider.
* Abortions after 16 weeks are virtually nonexistent, because no facility performs them.
* The state passed legislation last year to stop clinics from performing abortions after 12 weeks. (It was recently struck down by a U.S. district judge as unconstitutional.)
* The state is one of only two in the U.S. that requires a minor to obtain permission from both of her parents to get an abortion.
* Women must endure a 24-hour waiting period before they can have an abortion. During that time they are given state-mandated information that is often distorted or even false, such as the erroneous claim that there is a connection between abortion and breast cancer.
* The state requires that a physician give out this information, which adds to the cost of the abortion, especially for a clinic such as the Jackson Women's Health Clinic, which flies in two of its three physicians from other states.
* Mississippi also has the nation's most sweeping so-called "conscience clause," which allows any health care provider to refuse to provide abortion-related services, including referrals, to those in need.
Hill also says that the clinic regularly receives phone calls from women asking what they can do to end their pregnancies themselves. "One woman called a few weeks ago, saying she couldn't come to the clinic but told us she had taken 20 Tylenols and hoped that would do the trick." Hill says she also hears Vera-Drake-type stories about women in the Delta who help women with unintended pregnancies, but "we don't have any specifics about it."
"It's hard to get the time off to go up twice," says one student at the University of Southern Mississippi, who wishes to remain anonymous. "I had to get off work and get out of classes to drive up there and then go back later [because of the mandatory delay law]. It was a couple of weeks before I could take the time off again to have the abortion. And believe me, around here, you can't tell your boss why you need the time off."
On November 8, a PBS Frontline episode focussed on this struggle in Jackson. As the Frontline site says:
"… [E]ver since Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, people got the impression that abortion was safe; Roe v. Wade was safe," explains William Saletan, the author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War. "All the pro-choice people went home."
In the years after Casey, the pro-life movement has dramatically changed the landscape of abortion politics. In Mississippi alone, they helped pass 10 laws regulating abortion. And in the last two years, the state has passed legislation on fetal homicide prosecution, new clinic regulations, requirements to report abortion complications, rights of conscience, and a law that would prohibit the state's last abortion clinic from offering abortions beyond the first trimester.
Americans United for Life (AUL), the nation's oldest national pro-life organization, considers Mississippi an example for the nation. "Mississippi has an impressive track record," says AUL senior legal counsel Clarke Forsythe. "Our goal is to see that other states pass the type of legislation that Mississippi has passed over the past decade, and we see a lot of legislative activity."
With an ever-increasing number of state abortion regulations and a steady decline in abortion providers, the procedure, while still legal, has become daunting and expensive in Mississippi and elsewhere. Nationwide, there are now fewer abortion providers in the U.S. than at any time since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 -- 87 percent of U.S. counties don't have one.
(By the way, there are some useful links on the PBS site, if you follow that link). Anyway, so with all this going on, the Feminist Majority Foundation is asking for donations to help save the Jackson clinic. Because, as the Americans United For Life quote above indicates, Mississippi could just be the first step. Further, no woman should be forced to swallow 20 Tylenols because she can't make it to a clinic.
Half of your emergency contribution will support the FMF National Clinic Access Project’s work with federal, state, and local law enforcement, community leaders and the Jackson clinic to counter the protesters and prevent deadly attacks.It's mostly sad that half of it needs to get spent on law enforcement... argh.
And the other half of your emergency contribution will be put into a special fund created by the Jackson Women’s Health Organization to help poor women in Mississippi obtain abortions.
jane 3:44 PM [+]