Mississippi is one step closer to being the first “abortion-free” state

Roy Mcmillan, a protestor at Jackson Women's Health clinic

An anti-choice protestor outside the Jackson Women’s Health clinic. Photo by Matt Eich from Kate Sheppard’s essay at Mother Jones. Check out more photos here.

The last abortion clinic in Mississippi is officially out of compliance with a new law that could ultimately shut it down.

As we’ve written before, the state passed new regulations last year designed to “end abortion in Mississippi” by forcing the Jackson Women’s Health Organization to close its doors. To bring the clinic into compliance, its doctors must get admitting privileges at a local hospital—and all of them have refused to grant them. Last week, the grace period was up and the health department inspected the clinic, which is the first step in revoking its license, but hopefully the court will step in again before then.

In the 1980s, Mississippi had 14 abortion clinics. If JWHO closes, it would be the first state in the country without a single one. But while the developments there are extreme, they’re sadly representative of the trend. Several other states have only one clinic. Mississippi is the ultimate embodiment of the anti-choice strategy in recent decades: Slowly erode access to abortion so completely that there are “abortion-free” states despite the fact that Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land. 

The inevitable consequence of this strategy is a further deepening of the economic divide that already exists when it comes to reproductive rights: Wealthy people in Mississippi would likely be able to travel hundreds of miles to exercise their right to choose, while poor folks—who already lack a meaningful right to abortion because, guess what, that shit costs money—may be forced to turn to DYI methods. Or just have the baby—and often fall deeper into poverty as a result.

Of course, some will continue to do whatever it takes—cross state lines, sell their possessions—to get to a clinic. That’s what happens at JWHO already, as MoJo’s Kate Sheppard documents in this powerful photo/audio essay. The clinic director says, “Some people will come from, two, three hours away. They don’t even have a car. Somebody brought them. They paid someone to bring them here two different times. That shows you how desperate a woman would be to get this taken care of.”

Check out the rest of the piece here.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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