© 2024 WMRA and WEMC
WMRA : More News, Less Noise WEMC: The Valley's Home for Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

An upcoming Supreme Court case could make abortion more restricted across the U.S.


A Mississippi abortion law comes before the U.S. Supreme Court on December 1. The outcome of the case will have implications for patients nationwide. But in Mississippi, activists on both sides of the abortion debate are preparing for a future where abortion may be much more heavily restricted. NPR's Sarah McCammon traveled to Jackson and has this story.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Outside the Jackson Women's Health clinic, a pair of young women are pleading with patients as they go inside.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We're here to help y'all. We'll support you in keeping your baby. Please don't do this. Psalms 139 - it says, for you formed my inner heart. You covered me in my mother's womb.

MCCAMMON: The protesters declined to give their names, saying they don't trust reporters to represent them fairly. They're on one side of a black tarp that separates them from the women entering the clinic, yelling at women they can't see. The clinic plays music to drown them out.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We're here to help you and support you in any way we can.

MCCAMMON: The clinic itself, on a busy street in Mississippi's capital city, is painted a bubble gum pink.

CORY DRAKE: As another day here, we're letting - putting patients into the parking lot, trying to get them in to see the medical professionals. And we've got plenty of antis trying to dissuade them. And yeah, it's another day at the Pink House, sadly.

MCCAMMON: Cory Drake spends three or four days a week here escorting patients from their cars into the building.

DRAKE: Mornings are a little bit hectic. Afternoons slow down just a little bit. But we can have anywhere between 5 to 120 protesters outside just depending on the day of the week.

MCCAMMON: Inside the clinic, things are calmer as women sit quietly in the waiting room outside a reception area.

SHANNON BREWER: My name is Shannon Brewer. I am the director with Jackson Women's Health. It's the last abortion facility in the state of Mississippi.

MCCAMMON: Brewer says the tensions playing out in front of her clinic doors reflect a larger fight playing out across the country and in the Supreme Court.

BREWER: And this is the way that they chip away at abortion until it goes away. They chip away. It's 15 weeks, and then it's going to be 14 weeks, and then it's going to be 10 weeks. And then - this is the way that they do it.

MCCAMMON: The Mississippi state law before the Supreme Court bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. That's well before a fetus is viable. If the court upholds the law, it would reverse its own precedent, which says states can't interfere with the right to an abortion at that stage. Dr. Cheryl Hamlin is one of the clinic's abortion providers.

CHERYL HAMLIN: It's clearly directed at us 'cause our limit's 16 weeks.

MCCAMMON: Hamlin says restrictions already in place are delaying the procedure for some patients. Some live hours from Jackson and the only clinic in the state. Mississippi law requires patients to wait 24 hours for an abortion after their first appointment, adding more time. But for opponents of abortion rights, the prospect of a Supreme Court allowing further restrictions is the culmination of decades of activism.

KATELYN SIMPSON: Did you know that there's a pregnancy resource center that offers...

MCCAMMON: Katelyn Simpson is a junior at Mississippi College, a Christian school outside Jackson. She's been going door to door promoting a local crisis pregnancy center, which counsels women against abortion.

SIMPSON: And there's also unfortunately an abortion facility in this neighborhood called Jackson Women's Health Organization. Do you think that abortion should be an option for women facing an unexpected pregnancy? No? Oh, cool. We're pro-life, too.

MCCAMMON: In a quiet neighborhood, she greets a man pulling into his driveway.

SARAH ZARR: Thanks so much. Have a good...

SIMPSON: God bless. Bye.

MCCAMMON: Simpson is working with Sarah Zarr, a regional manager with Students for Life who is helping to organize a national door-knocking campaign.

ZARR: We've always known that, eventually, Roe would be reversed. And we wanted to be ready for that day.

MCCAMMON: Zarr says that also means working in state legislatures to introduce increasingly restrictive abortion laws, which she hopes will pass scrutiny under an increasingly conservative Supreme Court. Already, the court has allowed a Texas law to take effect, banning most abortions in that state, possibly signaling a willingness to allow more states, like Mississippi, to restrict the procedure even further. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Jackson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.