|by Sunsara Taylor|
On Sunday evening, March 22, the only remaining abortion clinic in the entire state of Mississippi, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO), was vandalized. According to, a website maintained by clinic staff and defenders, “Someone had come by in the early hours
of the morning and knocked [our security cameras] off our building. In the back of the clinic we found our State Mandated generator dismantled and seriously damaged… A review of our DVR showed that in the early hours of the morning, a masked intruder came onto our property and proceeded to methodically destroy our cameras. Other damage found indicates they were trying to destroy the power lines coming into the building, no doubt hoping to stop all patient care for the near future.”
This is an act of terror not only against the clinic’s brave staff who put their lives on the line every single day to serve women, but also against all the women of Mississippi and women everywhere. When women are denied the right to abortion and forced to have children against their will, they are enslaved.
This is no exaggeration and it is already the fate of far too many women throughout this country, particularly in the Deep South.
During my last trip to Mississippi with Stop Patriarchy, to defend with this clinic and abortion rights, a Black student at Jackson State University told me that his teenage cousin was currently living in a car with her two year old precisely because she had been unable to come up with the resources to travel up from the Gulf Coast to get an abortion at the only clinic left in the state. In an earlier visit, Shannon Brewer, the clinic administrator, described a patient from days before. A 14-year-old was brought in by her 27-year-old mother. The mother had only been 13 when she had her child and was determined not to see her daughter put through the same hell. Out in an impoverished part of Jackson, an older Black man who had spent many years in Parchman Farm penitentiary in horrific conditions, spoke passionately about how much women needed access to safe abortion. Otherwise, he explained, they drink Purell or bleach or injure themselves trying to induce their own abortions. These are but a few examples of what women are driven to – and how all women’s lives are devalued and demeaned when abortion is not extremely accessible, safe, and without stigma.
When “vandals” (more accurately called terrorists) destroy abortion clinic property, when anti-abortion protesters harass patients and staff, when Christian fascists kill doctors and bomb clinics, and when politicians pass laws restricting access to abortion, it is these kinds of conditions they are fighting to violently impose on women.
This must be well understood and this must be opposed.
Further, when “vandals” destroy security cameras along with other property, they are not only doing tremendous financial damage and sending a message of terror against the staff and all women, they are also concretely laying the groundwork for even greater acts of terror. When a brand new abortion clinic in Montana was destroyed by “vandals” last year, it was the very night before the new security systems were activated.
It is no coincidence that this terror took place in the midst of a siege of Christian fascists who have converged on and targeted this clinic from across the country. In addition to their regular anti-abortion protesters who harass women and staff at their clinic every single day, fascist fundamentalist Christian organizations Operation Save America, the Abortion Holocaust Survivors, and Abolish Human Abortion have been in Jackson waging even more confrontational and hateful anti-abortion protests.
Many of those who have carried out murders of abortion doctors and bombings of abortion clinics have been directly connected with these and other Christian fascist organizations in the past. And all these organizations know that when they whip up a fundamentalist and unthinking frenzy of hatred towards abortion doctors and clinics, they are inciting “true believers” to carry out acts of terror and violence. This has been the case, for example, at another clinics owned by Diane Derzis, the hero who owns the last clinic in Mississippi. In 1998 her clinic in Birmingham, Alabama – which had long been a target of anti-abortion fanatics, including the parent organization of Operation Save America – was struck by a bomb which destroyed the facility, killed one person, and critically injured one more.
All this takes place against a backdrop of record numbers of state-backed restrictions on abortion which are being passed into law across the country. In Mississippi, patients are forced to wait twenty four hours after seeing the doctor before they can get an abortion, meaning they either have to make the long trip twice or find the resources to stay over night. Minors are required not only to notify their parents of their choice to get an abortion, but they are forced to get consent from a parent. Doctors who provide abortions are legally required to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, even though this is totally medically unnecessary. None of the local hospitals will grant these privileges and the clinic is currently open only based on a judges decision while this last restriction is being litigated.