- SCOTUS will soon hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that could reverse Roe v. Wade, which protects abortion rights federally.
- Jackson Women’s Health is the only abortion clinic in Mississippi and it’s at the center of the case.
- The clinic faces a lack of resources and daily harassment from anti-abortion protesters.
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Before the pandemic, 2,500 people walked through the doors of Jackson Women’s Health, now the last abortion provider in all of Mississippi, each year seeking abortions. That number has only increased since then, to about 3,000 per year during the pandemic, as more clinics shuttered their doors.
To accommodate all of the patients — an influx of which came from out of state like Louisiana and Alabama — Shannon Brewer, the director of Jackson Women’s Health in Jackson, Mississippi said doctors and clinic staff work from morning until night.
After Mississippi officials voted to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy in 2018, staffers at Jackson Women’s Health sued the state, citing how the ban went against Roe v. Wade. But in May, the Supreme Court agreed to take on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a reproductive health case that could reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that federally protects a person’s right to get an abortion without excessive government restriction.
On June 3, Brewer, who has worked at Jackson Women’s Health since 2001, spoke on a panel hosted by Rewire News Group about the struggles her organization has faced over the past two decades, including limited funding, overworked staff, and constant harassment from anti-abortion protesters.
“We’re on pins and needles pertaining to the Supreme Court,” Brewer said while on the panel. “But we’ve always been on pins and needles, with all the new laws that keep coming. It’s a constant battle here actually, because as soon as we get through one hurdle, there’s something else that pops up.”
Anti-abortion protesters camp out and call patients ‘wh—s’ as they walk in
According to Brewer, in recent years, their tactics have intensified, yet they’ve been met with little resistance from law enforcement, she said.
During the panel, Brewer said protesters have dressed in the same vests as clinic escorts to intercept patients as they walk up to the bright pink building. They toss anti-abortion pamphlets through patients’ open car windows. They stand on ladders so they can see over the clinic’s fence, and call patients “murderers” and “wh—s” as they enter the building.
In 2019, Brewer and her team convinced city officials to create an ordinance so non-patients couldn’t walk onto clinic property. But the ordinance didn’t last long.
“Next thing we know, the signs were being taken down,” said Brewer, which she later learned was the result of anti-abortion advocates suing the city for the ordinance.
“So they took the ordinance back down, which leaves us basically on our own,” Brewer said.
Funding runs short often as staff care for thousands of patients each year
In addition lacking government support, Brewer noticed lacking community support for Jackson Women’s Health.
“The one thing that’s our biggest barrier is getting people to step up and speak up about when it comes to this clinic. People will talk behind closed doors and in private about it, but when it comes to stepping up, like this is the time to step up, people don’t do that,” said Brewer during the panel.
As a result, the clinic has had periods of financial instability, which were exacerbated by pandemic travel costs and limited grant money, according to Brewer.
Many of the clinic’s doctors live out of state, and found flights, rental cars, and gas were three times more expensive than pre-pandemic. When the shortage of protective equipment for healthcare workers happened, affording gear became another struggle.
Now that SCOTUS agreed to hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, Brewer is urging the public to donate money directly and support abortion rights alongside her.
“At some point you can’t just say, ‘I’m pro-choice.’ It’s about action,” Brewer said.