Sarah McCammon / NPR
Outside Jackson Women’s Health Organizations Clinic in mississippi a typical morning there is a gentle stream of protesters trying to persuade women not to go inside.
“We are here to help you,” a young woman called to patients one summer morning this year. “Please do not do this.”
That morning, she and another protester shouted through a black tarpaulin wrapped around the clinic gate to protect patients as they enter. The protesters refused to disclose their names, saying they did not trust journalists to represent them fairly.
They read aloud from the book of Psalms the Bible.
“It says, ‘For you have formed my inner parts, you knit me together in my mother’s womb,'” they said through the tarpaulin. “We are here to help you and support you in any way we can.”
This clinic, the last remaining abortion facility in the state, is at the center of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which comes before the Supreme Court on December 1st. The clinic is challenging a state law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy – long before a fetus is viable. If the court upholds the law, it will reverse its own precedent, which states that states cannot interfere in the right to abortion at that time.
The building, on a busy street in the capital of Mississippi, is painted a chewing gum-pink.
“Unfortunately, it’s another day in the Pink House,” said Cory Drake, a clinic card who spends three or four days a week here helping patients from their cars into the waiting room.
“The mornings are a little hectic. Afternoons slow down a bit,” Drake said. “We can have anywhere from five to 120 protesters outside, just depending on the day of the week.”
Sarah McCammon / NPR
Shannon Brewer, director of Jackson Women’s Health, said the tensions unfolding in front of her clinic doors reflect the larger battle unfolding across the United States and in the Supreme Court.
“This is the way they chip away at abortion until it goes away,” Brewer said. “It’s 15 weeks, and then it’s 14 weeks, and then it’s 10. That’s the way they do it.”
One of the clinic’s abortion providers, Dr. Cheryl Hamlin, said most of her patients are still within the first trimester and doctors here will not perform abortions after 16 weeks of pregnancy.
“[The ban is] clearly aimed at us because our limit is 16 weeks, “Hamlin said.
Hamlin said other restrictions already in place are delaying the procedure for some patients. Some live hours away from Jackson, Miss. – instead of the only clinic in the state. Mississippi law requires patients wait 24 hours for an abortion after their first appointment, which adds more time.
But for opponents of abortion rights, the prospect of a Supreme Court allowing further restrictions is the culmination of decades of activism.
“It simply came to our notice then Roe would be turned around and we wanted to be ready for that day, “said Sarah Zarr, a regional director at Students for Life of America. She helps organize a national doorstep campaign in cities including Jackson, designed to promote local crisis pregnancy centers, which advise patients against abortion.
Zarr said anti-abortion rights groups like hers are also working in state law to enact more restrictive abortion laws, including rules on drug abortion, a increasingly popular option for many patients and an alternative to surgical abortion. Zarr said she hopes such restrictions will be reviewed under an increasingly conservative Supreme Court.
The court has already allowed a Texas law to come into force that bans most abortions in that state – possibly signaling a willingness to allow more states like the Mississippi to restrict abortion even more.