Roe v. Wade may have confirmed that women have a constitutional right to chose an abortion, but for women in Mississippi, they may soon learn whether that federally protected right means anti-abortion legislators in states cannot drive out abortion providers.
As it stands, the state of Mississippi only has one abortion clinic, the Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization, and that clinic has been the target of anti-choice activists in the state for decades. Most recently, anti-choice legislators targeted the clinic for closure via a TRAP law that mandated doctors performing abortions at the JWHO have admitting privileges at local hospitals or face criminal prosecution and requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars of non-essential clinic renovations.
According to reports, hospitals refused to grant admitting privileges because “they didn’t deal with abortion and they didn’t want the internal or external pressure of dealing with it.” The deadline for getting those privileges and making those renovations has passed and, because they were never possible to comply with from the start, the JWHO faces closure. The question now is, when?
Legislators in the state have been very clear that their crusade is about one thing and one thing only: re-criminalizing abortion. Republicans argue this is making the state “abortion free” but when one in three women will need an abortion for a variety of essential reasons including to save their own lives, there is simply no such thing as “abortion free.” And besides, those arguments run up against anti-choice claims that making the procedure impossible to get “protects” women. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We need look no further than Roe v. Wade itself for proof that criminalizing abortion endangers women and makes for tragic, terrible public health policy. Forty years ago, abortion wasn’t non-existent. Roe v. Wade didn’t magically invent abortions. Women were dying gruesome, preventable deaths. Forty years ago, the Supreme Court affirmed their right to live.
In Mississippi, the JWOH now waits. The state Health Department can’t immediately close the clinic. First it must set an inspection and if it orders a shutdown, the clinic is entitled to an appeal process. But the goal is clear and, for the “pro-life” activists in the state, in sight.
Photo from StuSeeger via flickr.