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Jackson Women's Health Org. is fully booked, with abortions facing a ban in 9 days

SUSAN DAVIS, HOST:

The countdown is underway at Jackson Women's Health Organization in Mississippi. That's the clinic at the center of the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Its doors will soon close for good. And Rosemary Westwood of member station WWNO joins us now from Jackson. Hello there.

ROSEMARY WESTWOOD, BYLINE: Hello.

DAVIS: So what is the status of abortion rights in Mississippi now?

WESTWOOD: Abortions are legal for at least nine more days before the state's trigger law banning most abortions is expected to take effect. So Jackson Women's Health is trying to see as many patients as possible right now. I called yesterday after the ruling, and the receptionist told me they aren't taking more appointments. They're fully booked. When the ban does take effect, the only exceptions are for cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the pregnant person. Here's Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who really is the architect of using the Supreme Court case to overturn Roe v. Wade.

LYNN FITCH: This decision is a victory not only for women and children, but for the court itself. I commend the court for restoring constitutional principle and returning this important issue to the American people.

WESTWOOD: But Diane Derzis, who owns Jackson Women's Health - it's nicknamed the Pink House because it's painted bright pink - she says they will not stop helping women get abortions.

DAVIS: So what are her plans, given that this is the last abortion clinic in the state?

WESTWOOD: Diane's been providing abortions since 1975. She told me before it's her calling. And she says this ruling isn't going to stop her. Here's what she said yesterday at the press conference.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DIANE DERZIS: We're not laying down. We're not giving up. Women have always had abortions no matter what it took, even if it was their life. And we're going to make sure that that's not on the line here.

WESTWOOD: The biggest way they're doing this is by opening a new abortion clinic in New Mexico. They're calling it Pink House West, and they're going to help women who have to travel out of state to get there. I asked Diane during the press conference if she thought abortion would ever be legal in Mississippi again. And this is how she responded.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DERZIS: I don't think we're going to see that in our lifetime or maybe your children's lifetime.

WESTWOOD: She thinks birth control could be banned next.

DAVIS: So what does this all mean for the women in Mississippi?

WESTWOOD: Well, as I said, for the next week or so, those who can will get abortions at the clinic. Anti-abortion protesters outside the clinic yesterday told people it was illegal. And that's not true yet. And after it is, people here will have three options. They could travel out of state, but that takes money, child care, time off work.

DAVIS: Yeah.

WESTWOOD: They could get abortion pills online. That's already illegal in Mississippi, but women are doing it. Or they could stay pregnant. You know, most of the women getting abortions in Mississippi are Black, and they often already have kids. Some struggle to pay for their abortion, and they live in one of the poorest states in the country. So being forced to stay pregnant and give birth could have expansive implications for their economic stability and their health. Mississippi has among the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the nation, rates that are higher if you're Black. So staying pregnant could be dangerous.

DAVIS: That is WWNO's Rosemary Westwood reporting from Jackson, Miss. Thank you so much.

WESTWOOD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Rosemary Westwood
Rosemary Westwood is the public and reproductive health reporter for WWNO/WRKF. She was previously a freelance writer specializing in gender and reproductive rights, a radio producer, columnist, magazine writer and podcast host.
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