A small, wary moment of triumph


Jackson Women's Health Orangization

Jackson Women’s Health Organization

In 2112, many blogs ago, I wrote about the Mississippi legislature trying to close the state’s only abortion clinic by passing a law that the clinic doctors must have hospital privileges at a local hospital.


The hospitals refused the doctors admission* and lawmakers claimed closing the clinic it wouldn’t hurt: women who needed abortions could drive to New Orleans or Memphis.


One legislator bragged: “We have literally stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi,” and “the other side [is] like, ‘Well, the poor pitiful women that can’t afford to go out of state are just going to start doing them at home with a coat hanger.’ That’s what we’ve heard over and over and over. But hey, you have to have moral values.”

coathanger The Mississippi clinic sued to block the law and last week the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled. To quote from The New York Times: “A state cannot lean on its sovereign neighbors to provide protection of its citizens’ federal constitutional rights.” You cannot have a law that closes the State’s only clinic.

It’s not victory. The law still stands and similar laws have been upheld in Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. Laws can close clinics, but they can’t close the last one.

States' Rights stop at the border.

States’ Rights stop at the border.


In case we’ve forgotten, or never knew, here is what’s it’s like to get an abortion in the face of efforts in parts of this country to make it as hard as possible. From a piece called “My Abortion” in New York magazine

Cherisse, 39. I looked in the Chicago Yellow Pages and made an appointment at what I thought was an abortion clinic. They sent a black woman in to talk to me. She told me she and her husband hadn’t want their child at first and tried to convince me to keep mine. They showed me a video of a D&E (dilation and evacuation). They assumed I was on food stamps—I was a 28-yea-old paralegal. They sent me home with a rattle and onesie. They sent me to another place to get a free ultrasound. The technician said, “if you have an abortion now, you’ll rupture your uterus and won’t be able to have children.” I had no idea what was true. I went ahead and had my son. Those people weren’t there after I lost my job and couldn’t afford insurance, utilities, rent, food.

Mira, 29. The day I got accepted to college, I had a positive pregnancy test. I went to a community health center. They told me to leave. The closest three clinics were all 300 miles away. I borrowed my mother’s car. My boyfriend came with me. I honestly don’t remember how we came up with the $700. We left after work and drove to Colorado. It was the dead of winter. We stayed in a hotel in Cheyenne, another $60, but we couldn’t sleep. When we got to the clinic, an escort met us at the car asked if we wanted a bulletproof vest. Inside, the doctor took my hand and apologized that I had to travel so far. Ten minutes later, it was done.

Roe vs. Wade poster



*Seven hospitals refused admission to the Jackson clinic’s doctors (who do not live in Mississippi full time), either to avoid controversy or because of money. Hospitals often provide admitting privileges only if doctors admit a minimum number of patients per year and—for abortion providers—serious medical crises are rare.


4 responses »

  1. I always hope abortion isn’t the first choice. But I feel so strongly that it has to be a choice available for all women.

  2. I’ll never understand why people have to be so hateful by butting into the personal affairs of other people. Thank you for this Norma. The more I learn about Mississippi, the more I’m determined to never go there.

  3. I heard an activist named Bill Baird speak at Boston University in the fall of 1968 (I was 18) about the fight for legal abortion. Though I’d never thought about it before, I knew he was right. The present day right to an abortion is something no one woman can take for granted because the hurdles put in the way of having one are myriad, though Mississippi is worse than most other states.

  4. It’s obvious to me,Norma, that the entire anti-abortion movement has to do with white folks (men) being panicked over the prospect of our fast becoming a nation that will no longer have a white majority population. We in California have already hit that status; Our demographics now place us in a category where there is a no longer a white majority. And — we’ve not flown off into space nor has there been a wild implosion!

    It’s a power struggle to get as many white babies birthed as possible, and those damned women just don’t see that! They keep thinking it’s about losing their right to choose. They just don’t understand that we’re saving the world from them heathens! The race to re-establish restrictions on voting rights fits right into that scenario as well. I think it’s all about the fear of losing (white) power, but we can’t seem to have that conversation yet. Mississippi is not alone in this battle, it’s only the focal point of the movement — for now.


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