Lone Mississippi abortion clinic seeks legal path to reopen

Published 3:30 pm Friday, July 8, 2022

Attorneys for Mississippi’s only abortion clinic filed papers Thursday asking the state Supreme Court to block a new law that bans most abortions and to let the clinic reopen next week.

The clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, is at the center of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade and took away women’s constitutional protection for abortion nationwide.

A Mississippi law that took effect Thursday bans most abortions, and the clinic performed its last procedures Wednesday. Clinic attorneys are making the same arguments that a trial court judge rejected Tuesday as the clinic tried to block the law from taking effect. They said that in 1998, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution has a right to privacy that includes abortion.

“Absent relief, Mississippians will continue to be denied their rights under the Mississippi Constitution to privacy and bodily autonomy, as they are compelled by the State to endure the risks of pregnancy and bear children against their will,” clinic attorney Rob McDuff wrote.

It was not immediately clear when the conservative state Supreme Court would consider the appeal.

Diane Derzis, owner of the Mississippi clinic, told The Associated Press that she will have staff available to reopen the facility if the state Supreme Court allows.

“I’m not hopeful, but there’s always a possibility,” Derzis said Thursday.

As for the legal filing and the effort to stay open, she said: “All of us needed to know we exhausted all possibilities.”

The Mississippi clinic is best known as the Pink House because of its bright paint job. Some staff members were inside Thursday to do paperwork and follow-up appointments for a few patients. About 30 abortion opponents held a Christian worship service on a street next to the clinic.

“No more murdering innocent children here,” said Dr. Coleman Boyd, a physician who has frequently protested outside the clinic. “Christ is exalted. Innocent bloodshed in this building is done.”

Several of the abortion opponents yelled at Dr. Cheryl Hamlin as she arrived. Hamlin is an OB-GYN who has traveled from Boston the past five years to do abortions in Mississippi. She strode across the clinic parking lot and jabbed her finger at abortion protester John Busby, who called on her to repent.

“You’re idiots,” Hamlin said. “You don’t care. You’re going to hell. You. You are going to burn in hell. I’m so sick of you.”

As Hamlin walked away, Busby called after her: “You’re going to die in your sin, Cheryl, unless you repent for Jesus Christ.”

Standing outside the Mississippi clinic on June 24, Derzis was pragmatic about the future of the building she had painted bright pink several years ago.

“This building will be sold and maybe someone will knock it down and make a parking lot here,” Derzis said. “And that will be sad, but she served her purpose and many women had their abortions here.”