Jackson’s abortion Pink House fights to reopen
Mississippi’s last abortion facility invokes a 1998 state Supreme Court ruling to block enforcement of protections for unborn babies
The Pink House, Mississippi’s last abortion facility and the one named in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, closed on Thursday for what might be the last time as the state’s law protecting babies from abortion at all stages of pregnancy took effect. During the final week at the facility, local pro-lifers said they both regretted lives lost during the last days and welcomed the Pink House’s closure. But they’re cautious to celebrate a victory because the status of the facility isn’t final yet: Ongoing litigation and a 1998 state Supreme Court ruling mean that Jackson Women’s Health Organization has a chance of reopening.
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch certified the state’s conditional law on June 27, starting a 10-day countdown until the protections for babies would officially take effect. Barbara Beavers, the former director of a pregnancy center in Jackson, was outside of the Pink House with her husband on Day Nine, the first Wednesday in July. Beavers has been coming to counsel Pink House clients weekly ever since she retired from the pregnancy center about five years ago. She said the facility was so busy that the dozen or so parking spots in the lot had filled up, forcing women to park on the street when they arrived for their appointments.
Even though it was the last day the facility could perform abortions before the law took effect, the sheer number of women—including some that appeared to be from out of state—coming to the facility that day discouraged Beavers. “Did we have to kill that many more babies till that place closes?” she said. “Did we have to lose that many more lives?”
“We couldn’t wait for that 10th day to come,” said Pam Miller who has been sidewalk counseling at the facility for more than a decade. She was at the Pink House for about an hour on Thursday, the day the law took effect. The day before, one of the lead pro-abortion volunteers at the facility, Derenda Hancock, posted on her Facebook page that the Pink House staff would be doing follow-up appointments on Thursday. Miller said she saw a few patients come for those appointments, but it was a slow day. Things appeared to be winding down.
Even though the abortions had apparently stopped, the coming days brought news updates about a legal battle the facility was fighting to stay open. “The battle might not be over quite yet,” Miller said. “They’re not going to give up easily, and we knew they wouldn’t.”
The same day Attorney General Fitch certified the conditional law, Jackson Women’s Health Organization filed a lawsuit to block officials from enforcing it. In the lawsuit, attorneys for the abortion facility argued that the Mississippi Constitution guarantees a right to abortion. They cited Pro-Choice Mississippi v. Fordice. In that case, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that “the state constitutional right to privacy includes an implied right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.”
Similar rulings in other states have prevented the enforcement of pro-life legislation. But on July 5, a judge denied the facility’s request for a court order against the pro-life law, which was scheduled to take effect two days later. The abortion facility appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court, asking the court to expedite the appeal so that the facility could open again the week of July 10. The court denied the request and gave Fitch until July 25 to respond to the abortion facility’s petition.
Despite the ongoing legal battle, the facility’s owner, Diane Derzis, told the Associated Press on Thursday, “I’m not hopeful, but there’s always a possibility.” She said they filed the lawsuit because “All of us needed to know we exhausted all possibilities.”
The pro-abortion groups argue that the 1998 ruling from the state Supreme Court is “still standing and is binding precedent that prevents the State of Mississippi from outlawing abortion regardless of the status of the current federal law.” But, with the current pro-life majority in the Mississippi Supreme Court, pro-lifers are also optimistic that the protections for unborn babies will stand.
Beavers said she drove by the facility on Monday morning. While there were still chairs set up outside of the facility for the pro-abortion volunteer escorts, she saw that the building was closed. A receptionist at the facility answered a call from WORLD around 3:30 Monday afternoon and said that they were referring patients to another abortion facility in Columbus, Ga., 330 miles away.
Back in the 1980s, when Beavers’ husband first started coming to the abortion facility to pray on the sidewalk, the state had about a dozen abortion centers. She said she and her husband used to pray outside of four others that were once operating in Jackson. “We’ve seen them close one by one over the years,” said Beavers. “… This was the last one. So it is a dream fulfilled.”
But she still seemed somber about the future, recognizing a great deal of work yet to be done to help change hearts and minds. As Beavers noted, abortion is only a symptom of a larger problem: “This is a much bigger issue than abortion. This is … anti-God, anti-Christ. … The issue itself is, who will be God, who will we serve?”
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