When the Roe v. Wade precedent was overturned by the Supreme Court Friday morning, the clock began ticking for the Jackson Women’s Health Organization clinic, which most people know as the Pink House.
Representative from the clinic held a news conference Friday afternoon saying they will likely close in a matter of weeks but also that the Jackson clinic’s demise will not be the end for those involved.
The case that brought an end to nearly 50 years of nationwide abortion protections started with the Pink House, after the clinic sued the state over its Gestation Age Law. Their loss in the case will lead not only to the closure of their clinic but also the closure of clinics throughout the nation.
Thirteen states including Mississippi have trigger laws which ban abortions in the event Roe v. Wade fell. Thirteen other states either have bans on the books from before Roe v. Wade was decided or restrictions on abortion that go beyond those Roe v. Wade allowed.
In a number of states, bans have already gone into effect. Mississippi’s law, however, requires approval from Attorney General Lynn Fitch, after which abortion will be banned 10 days later.
Fitch has not indicated when she will certify that the court overturned Roe v. Wade, though she has signaled her support for the decision.
“We intend to give the opinion and the analysis contemplated by the law the thoughtful attention they deserve,” said the attorney general’s Chief of Staff Michelle Williams in an email Friday morning.
At the news conference, Pink House owner Diane Derzis said she does not expect Fitch to take long with the decision. Derzis said the clinic will see every patient they possibly can until a ban on abortions goes into effect 10 days after Fitch takes action.
“Any patient that contacts us, we’ll see them. We’ll make sure we see them,” Derzis said.
As for patients who cannot receive an abortion before bans go into effect, Derzis said their only option for a legal abortion would be travel.
Illinois would be the closest state with abortion access for 71% of people in Mississippi, while 29% would be closer to North Carolina, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research organization.
“This is going to hit the most vulnerable women. If you’re a woman of privilege, you can get a flight to New York and be home by dinner,” Derzis said.
Derzis encouraged people to donate to abortion funds which help people who cannot afford to travel in order to receive an abortion.
As for the Pink House in Jackson, it will soon be closed. However, the organization behind the clinic has opened “Pink House West,” a clinic in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
“The Pink House, while it’s a wonderful building, it is just a building,” Derzis said. “There will be pink houses all over the country if I have anything to say about it.”
Shannon Brewer, director of the Pink House, spoke at the news conference via video call. She was at Pink House West in New Mexico.
“Today is a tough day for me, for Diane, for everyone at the clinic,” Brewer said.
Derenda Hancock also spoke at the news conference. She organizes the Pink House Defenders, a group of people who escort patients arriving at the clinic when they are often faced by anti-abortion groups. Hancock thanked the other clinic escorts, who stood assembled behind her in their colorful striped vests.
“These people have given their time and their energy for all these years selflessly, and now we’re here to say goodbye,” Hancock said. “We will be here in the parking lot until the Pink House closes its doors.”
Brewer had to fight through tears as she addressed the staff.
“There are no words to thank y’all,” she said. “Even up to today they’re still talking to patients and seeing patients.”
Derzis also said goodbye, not just to the staff but to the patients and the community.
“It has been such an honor and a privilege to be in Mississippi. We have grown to love this state and the people in it,” Derzis said.
While the staff and supporters of the Pink House mourn, many people will be happy to see it close.
A number of anti-abortion protestors were at the clinic earlier that day, some openly celebrating the decision.
“At the end of the day, y’all won’t be killing babies in this pink house anymore,” anti-abortion advocate Coleman Boyd told a group of clinic escorts. “Hallelujah!”
The clinic has long been the site of anti-abortion protestors. A week before the decision was announced, Basil Chisholm was standing outside with a sign. Chisholm said his father’s service in World War II reminded him of what Germans living in Nazi Germany said after the war about concentration camps.
“Over and over people said they didn’t know. That’s so thin. They saw the trains and the smoke,” Chisholm said. “I’m here to make sure people know what’s happening in that clinic.”
Anti-abortion protestors and clinic escorts seemed to agree on one thing: the fight would not end when the Pink House closes. Chisholm said he would still do what he could to prevent abortions, while clinic escort Rose Karsai said she would do whatever she could to help those seeking the procedure.
“I’ll keep doing this as long as I can. Keep on and keep fighting,” Kasrai said.