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On Wednesday evening, after some of the last patients to receive a legal abortion in Mississippi had left Jackson Women's Health Organization, the last abortion clinic in the state closed its doors.
The next day, abortion would become illegal in Mississippi, with few exceptions.
The trigger law passed the state legislature in 2007 and bans all abortions, whether performed surgically or via medication, with exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape and those that threaten the life of the mother. The rape exception requires a victim to have reported the crime to the police.
"Mississippi’s laws to promote life are solid and thanks to the Court’s clear and strong opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, they can now go into effect," Fitch said in a news release announcing that she was setting the trigger law into motion. "As we have said throughout this case, Roe v. Wade presented a false choice between a woman’s future and her child’s life. As we proceed in this post-Roe world, the people of Mississippi and of all the states will be able to fully engage in the work of both empowering women and promoting life. I am grateful that the Court has given us this opportunity."
Even supporters of the 2007 law have said the exceptions are narrow and it will be hard for people claiming them to have an abortion. Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, wrote the abortion ban. He said in a May interview with WLBT that those seeking the rape exception won't have a clinic available to receive an abortion.
“There won’t be a place for anybody to say, ‘Oh, I’m going to use the exception to go down to the clinic,’” Fillingane said. “The clinic is not going to be there.”
The end of abortions at Jackson Women's Health Organization, the state's last operating clinic, leaves Mississippians seeking an abortion with hundreds of miles between the state and the closest places with widespread access. It also closes the book on decades of protest, activism and reproductive healthcare at the clinic, leaving many who have spent decades of their lives there wondering what to do next.
Medication abortion, commonly known as the abortion pill, had already made up a majority of the abortions provided by the Jackson Women's Health Organization. It is unlikely that abortion pills will be totally unavailable to Mississippians, despite the state's ban on them. Individuals' mail is regulated by the federal government, not the state, and states where abortion remains legal are working hard to provide access to abortion pills for people in states like Mississippi. Mary Jane Maharry is interim director of marketing and communications for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, where abortion is legal.
"Anyone with an Illinois address can get the abortion pills mailed to that address. If they don't have an Illinois address, they can still do a telehealth visit. So if somebody from Mississippi wanted to drive their car to within the Illinois state line, they could do their telehealth visit in their car and then drive to a health center to pick up their medication," Maharry said.
Jackson Women's Health Organization had sought an injunction to delay the abortion ban, while they exhausted their legal options in state courts. However, a judge refused to grant them that injunction Tuesday, leading to the ban taking effect.
While the clinic may stay open for a period of time, it will not be able to perform abortions. Clinic escorts said they will be back Thursday, and will keep showing up as long as the clinic is open in any capacity.
Diane Derzis owns the Jackson Women's Health clinic, also known as the Pink House. She has said the Pink House will eventually close in Jackson following the ban on abortions. In an email last week, Derzis referred to the 10 days following Finch's certification as "our final days."
That said, Derzis and Pink House Director Shannon Brewer are in the midst of opening a new clinic, dubbed "Pink House West," in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
"There will be pink houses all over the country if I have anything to say about it," Derzis said in a June 24 news conference.
With Roe v. Wade behind them, many of the state's conservative leaders have pledged to help mothers and young children, while offering few specifics.
"Our state seeks to be pro-life in every sense of the word — supporting mothers and children through policies of compassion and working to ensure that every baby has a forever family that loves them," Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said in a statement the day Roe v. Wade was struck down.
Earlier in June, Reeves had published an op-ed calling for the pro-life movement to expand beyond just abortion, and to do more to support mothers and children.
"Being pro-life is about more than just being anti-abortion. It requires working to ensure that every child who is brought into the world, no matter their situation, is given every opportunity for future success," Reeves wrote.
That said, his op-ed did not call for specific new policy initiatives.
Fitch released similar statements following the court's decision.
"Now, our work to empower women and promote life truly begins. The Court has let loose its hold on abortion policymaking and given it back to the people. The task now falls to us to advocate for the laws that empower women – laws that promote fairness in child support and enhance enforcement of it, laws for childcare and workplace policies that support families, and laws that improve foster care and adoption," Fitch said in a statement. "We must renew our commitment to weaving a safety net that helps women in challenging circumstances and gives their children life and hope."
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Mississippi abortion ban takes effect, last clinic closes Wednesday