No Apologies: Inside Mississippi's Pro-Life Movement | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

No Apologies: Inside Mississippi's Pro-Life Movement

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Bruce Stuckey and Roy McMillan are doing what many people would consider radical—standing outside the Jackson Women's Health Clinic in mid-September, protesting in the rain. They are flanked by a visiting group from Kansas City, young protesters with the word "LIFE" etched onto the red tape that covers their mouths.

Cars take up most of the street, so I have to park blocks away. The rain beats down with such force that I can barely keep my eyes open as I approach the non-descript building that houses Mississippi's only remaining abortion facility. Customers from Rooster's in Fondren Corner who have parked across the street next to the clinic run zig-zags through the rain to the safe havens of their cars.

McMillan notices them, but turns back to the clinic. "They're just lunchers," he says to Stuckey.

"Away in a Manger" plays ominously from a tape player tucked under McMillan's 2005 Toyota Tacoma. The song cuts through the rain with a chorus of children's voices as McMillan calls out to women, "Ma'am, are you pregnant?"

Stuckey wears a prayer shawl to protect his head and his anti-abortion pamphlets. Under the shawl, he also holds an African-American baby doll. Stuckey giggles at himself as he tries to avoid getting wet.

McMillan wears a white wide-brim hat and ignores the weather. Members of the visiting group rock back and forth, shivering as the rain pelts their protest, but McMillan doesn't notice. A world of rain-panicked people rushes around him, but he keeps his eye on the clinic.

He tells me in between calling out to women, "The abortions don't stop for the rain, so neither do we."

'Dust and Clean'

Beverly and Roy McMillan are surrounded by visitors—a mother and her three daughters, all in austere dresses, in from Arkansas to help rid Mississippi of abortion, eat cereal at the McMillans' long kitchen table. Two of Beverly's grandsons—2-year-old Grayson and 4-year-old Jakob—are also there, at the McMillans' large, spotless home in Fondren. The kids stare at me for five minutes in silence while Beverly McMillan makes coffee. Finally, the younger grandson says, "The bigger lizards bite."

Roy McMillan, 62, laughs and takes the grandchildren outside to hunt for lizards while his wife, Beverly, explains her spiritual journey. The gynecologist speaks with a slight lisp in a sweet, calming tone. She giggles at herself even when recounting the more serious parts of her journey from abortionist to pro-life Ob/Gyn. In between sentences, she eats candy—Smarties—one at a time.

During our three-hour interview, her husband walks through the living room intermittently. He injects his own opinions in between his wife's story, but she waves him off. "Roy," she says. "You'll get your turn. We're having our interview." She shakes her head and returns to her story.

In 1969, Beverly McMillan was a card-carrying feminist. She was a National Organization of Women member and forged her way to become a successful doctor and mother in a world still tilted toward men. While working in residence at Cook County Hospital in Chicago in the Infected OB Ward, she ran into the epidemic that changed her life.

"When I first started, I thought I'd be taking care of women with malfunctioned C-sections," the 63-year-old doctor says, between Smarties. "Instead, I saw women who had messed-up abortions in the back alleys of Chicago." While working there, McMillan heard plenty of stories from women who had pushed foreign objects into their cervixes and had gone to "County" claiming miscarriages. At first, she didn't even realize what was really going on.

"No one told me," she says. "They were all bleeding and had enlarged uteruses. I just did a formal dialate and curette, which people jokingly call a 'dust and clean.'"
At the time, McMillan was disgusted by the way the hospital treated the women. Cook County is a big trauma center, so anesthesia was reserved for patients with more serious wounds. The workers at the hospital treated the women "like scum," she says.

After six weeks there, McMillan was distressed. "I thought if women were going to be so desperate that they would go to back-alley quacks and then be mistreated at the hospitals, then it was time for orthodox medicine to offer front-alley abortions. I thought it was a social responsibility," she says.

Because of these convictions, McMillan was delighted when the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973, making abortion legal in the United States and establishing a woman's right to privacy over her own body. Excited about the possibility of getting better care for women, McMillan bought an abortion suction machine and prepared to start a safe practice.

Immediately, though, her then-husband's company transferred him to Mississippi. She reluctantly moved with him to a state that had yet to open even one abortion clinic. While teaching at University Medical Center, McMillan learned of a group called Family Health Services that was looking for a physician to perform abortions. The group opened the first abortion clinic, with McMillan as their head abortion doctor, in Mississippi in the fall of 1975.

'I Was a Heathen'

Life was good for her in Jackson, Beverly McMillan thought. Her private practice was picking up. The abortion clinic was quickly successful—they had even hired several other doctors. She had a new car and three healthy young sons. Still, something was missing. Working on her New Year's resolutions in January 1976, she started to understand that she was depressed. Her marriage was falling apart, and she was having thoughts that scared her.

"Well, I just thought I needed a good book," she says, giggling at herself.

McMillan was an atheist then. She had given up on church around age 19, and her husband had discouraged her from revisiting religion, too. When she realized the book she had picked out—"The Power of Positive Thinking" by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale—was Christian-focused, she "just about vomited."

She had purchased the book thinking Peale's background as a doctor could be really helpful. Then, she realized he wasn't a clinical doctor at all. She recalls: "At the end of the first chapter, there was a list of things to do. No. 7 said to keep repeating 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' It just made me frustrated and more depressed. I didn't want to do it, but I couldn't go on to Chapter 2 without completing all of the steps. I was desperate, and I wanted to finish the book and feel better."

McMillan kept the book in her car for weeks, often revisiting it and finding herself more frustrated with the focus on scripture. Finally, exasperated, she said, "Oh, I'll give up and just say the thing."

All of a sudden, she says, she felt a presence over her right shoulder. She started crying, then began saying the verse over and over for days. As the verse started to make her feel better, she bought a Bible and began seeking out Christian friends.

"I only knew one woman who was a Christian. I had met her at Lamaze class. All along, I knew she was a Christian, and she knew I was a heathen, but we decided to be friends anyway," McMillan says.

As McMillan filled her life with Christianity, it became harder for her to go to the abortion clinic. "That was so odd," she remembers. "It had never bothered me before."

Then one day, McMillan broke down. After performing abortions, she had to review the remains of the fetus to account for all of the body parts. If anything was missing, the abortion hadn't been completed properly. While examining the miniscule remains of a 12-week-old fetus, she noticed that the arm muscle reminded her of her youngest son's small arm.

"I got terribly sad. I lost my zeal, my stomach for it," she says.

But McMillan didn't make an immediate switch to the pro-life movement. She still worked with the abortion clinic, but she began leaving herself off the schedule each week to perform abortions. Finally, she left the practice in 1978 and quit thinking about abortion. Two years later and newly divorced, she met up with people from the movement at a brown bag lunch for Christian physicians. Her work with the movement eventually secured her a spot as a pro-life speaker in a debate at Southern Farm Bureau Insurance.

She spoke to more than 600 people that day, but only one person left her a note asking her out to dinner—Roy McMillan.

Unnerving and Obsessed

Everyone's interested in Roy McMillan. His picture has splashed the pages of news publications ranging from the the New York Times Magazine to Newsweek. They have told the story of his mother abandoning him when he was a baby. In 1942, Roy's mother left him naked on the steps of a church in Alexandria, La.

I've read all the stories before I meet him. He's gruff, but weirdly charming.

"If abortions had been legal in 1942," he tells me, "I have no doubt that my mother would have had one. I wouldn't be alive."

Because I've already read so much about him, the statement seems a bit rote when he tells it now. McMillan also speaks in lists. There are three reasons abortions aren't good for women, four reasons the United States will collapse if we continue abortions, and four ways abortion can be ended.

McMillan, known for his tearful vigils with a huge poster of a fetus across from the Jackson Women's Health Clinic, is often called an extremist. But he is also something of a cultural relativist who thinks Gandhi probably made it to heaven, even though he wasn't a Christian. He doesn't support George W. Bush or the death penalty (which most pro-lifers do support). His ideas on feminism are a little convoluted—women's work and economic rights aren't as liberal as they should be, but maybe women shouldn't be allowed to vote, he tells me, seeming like he hasn't quite worked through that idea fully, yet.

In many ways, Roy McMillan is everything I expect him to be—passionate, unnerving and biblically obsessed.

In late August, I watch McMillan and his Friday protest partner Bruce Stuckey—one of Jackson's only African-American pro-life activists and a part-time musician for the Open Door Mennonite Church—at the Women's Health Clinic on State Street. Traffic is slow for hours, but once women start arriving, Roy McMillan goes on the prowl. "Bruce, get across the street!" he yells more than once. Because of past run-ins with the police, McMillan is legally required to stay 15 feet away from the clinic. He keeps Stuckey and others around to get his message closer to the women.

Stuckey is a little bit like a puppy—very soft spoken and sweet and willing to do whatever McMillan asks him to do. At the first sign of an incoming patient, 38-year-old Stuckey rushes at McMillan's demand. McMillan himself stays across the street, calling out, "Ma'am, if you're pregnant, we can help."

Stuckey stays close to the gate, smiling and offering pamphlets almost passively. As women get closer to the tinted doors, though, McMillan's fire picks up.

"Mommy, mommy, don't kill me!" he cries out, miming a child's tone. He adds as she walks through the door, "Don't let them get their grubby bloody hands on you!"

Stuckey says he and McMillan are like night and day, but they get along. In between calling out to women, they joke back and forth with each other. Stuckey teases McMillan for eating at "expensive restaurants," like Western Sizzlin', all the time.

"I'm the calm; he's the storm," Stuckey says with a bashful giggle. Stuckey prefers a more gentle approach, and he admits that he wishes Roy would scream less at the women as they walk into the abortion clinic. But he admires McMillan for being bold.

"We're supposed to be showing the love of God," Stuckey tells me later, when Roy is out of town. "I know he can be a wrathful God, but he does show mercy."

McMillan has an open-door policy in his and his wife's home and lets displaced women (and more recently, hurricane evacuees) live with him. He is generous with his money, but Stuckey thinks McMillan turns some women away from their cause by being too abrasive. He loves Roy, but sometimes he gets fed up with his orders—like this past August, when Stuckey was counseling a woman outside the clinic.

"I had her on the ropes. She was crying, and I told her I could take her right then to the Crisis Pregnancy Center, but then Roy started in with his banter, and she just turned and ran toward the abortion clinic," he remembers.

Mostly the women ignore McMillan, but he does persuade some to turn away from the clinic. Sometimes people—never the workers—respond to him. One Friday, a man spits at him angrily. Inside, his girlfriend is already crying. Outside, McMillan turns his attention to other cars.
"We stop every car coming down this street," he tells me, still watching the road. "They may not be going to the abortuary, but if not, we're still out here to change people's minds."

'Women Are Extremely Wise'

National Women's Health Clinic President Susan Hill says most of the women who come to the clinic think Roy McMillan is just "foolish," but he does bother some of them. Many women call the clinic asking for visits when he isn't protesting, which is nearly impossible, Hill says. He's out there almost every day.

"What he does isn't protesting or counseling," Hill says. "It's abuse toward total strangers. I've seen him yelling at people on his pro-life side and at the women coming to the clinic."

Hill is fighting a battle that is "uphill" at best.

Katherine Spillar, the executive vice president of the Feminist Majority, based in California, encourages pro-choicers to respond with as much passion as the pro-lifers have shown. She says: "It's very critical for the Jackson community to provide political and community support to keep this vital clinic open. They need escorts and people to call the city council; they need people to call the governor and say they support this clinic and what it's doing. It's very important that people who think women deserve good quality health care to speak up now; otherwise, the situation might get worse."

It's hard to imagine the situation getting much worse from the pro-choicers' side. Since 1996, the number of abortion clinics in Mississippi has dropped from six to one. Gov. Haley Barbour declared the state the safest place for the unborn at this year's Neshoba County Fair to a roar of cheers. Mississippi disallows facilities that receive public money from performing abortions and bans Medicaid funding for abortions. In 2003, in hopes of dissuading voters from electing Democrat Barbara Blackmon for lieutenant governor, opponent Amy Tuck challenged her pro-choice views. Blackmon retaliated by calling for Tuck to also sign an affidavit saying she had never had an abortion. Tuck signed the affidavit.

There are plenty of laws limiting abortion in Mississippi—14, to be exact, including a 24-hour waiting period, dual parental consent for women under the age of 18 and a ban on abortions past 13 weeks. Abortion clinics are also required to inform women of a link between breast cancer and abortions—a link that the National Cancer Institute denied in 2003.

Spillar says that these laws are a result of Mississippi's male-dominated Legislature. "People around the nation are shocked that the state has enacted such draconian measures that only this one clinic is left to provide services to such a large population," she adds.

But Mississippi's last remaining abortion clinic is not backing down. "We are committed," Hill says. "We're not leaving."

Hill, 56, has been involved with abortion clinics since 1973—the week after the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. She had seen friends fall into comas after going through illegal abortions, and when a gynecologist friend told her he was setting up an abortion practice, Hill signed on, too.

She was only 24, naive to the protests and difficulties that would later face her. But her vigor is as strong now as it was then. She wants to help women. She's seen their desperate faces in clinics across the South—her organization owns five clinics, including the one in Jackson—and she knows this is what she has to do. A major task is to talk back to protesters like McMillan who believe they know what is best for women. And it's not abortion, they say.

"It's not good for women," Roy McMillan insists. "I've never seen a woman come out of a clinic liberated. They're pushed in by their boyfriends, and they come out crying."

Though the Centers for Disease Control reported in 2001 that 56 percent of women who have had abortions are white, Stuckey says black women show up to have abortions at the Jackson clinic. He isn't sure why, though he guesses more of them live in poverty and see no other choice.

McMillan calls this "black genocide"—a mass killing off of the black race through abortion. He adds, "They take advantage of women in a crisis—the illiterate, impoverished."

Abortion targets lesser-educated people who have not been taught moral conduct, he says. "It's a civil rights issue," he adds.

"Women are extremely wise," retaliates Hill, who says that the thing that makes her "the craziest" is when abortion protesters act like women don't understand what they're doing. Hill admits that the clinic in Jackson does see more black women, but this is because many higher-income, often white, women travel out of state where there are less restrictions and "no Roys" protesting.

"I've been doing this 33 years, and women—young women—are so bright and so educated, so Internet-educated, that it's crazy to assume they don't know what they're doing. Women are so smart and resourceful that they manage to get to Jackson, get time off from their low-paying jobs and find child care," she says. "They know they're either going to have a baby, or they're not going to have a baby. (But McMillan thinks) if they'd just listen to him, that he can tell them the right thing to do in their lives."

'I Hid My Face'

Roy McMillan wasn't always so extreme. When he met Beverly in 1982, he had never been involved in pro-life work. He was reluctant to even join the mission. He thought Beverly was cute and smart when he saw her speak, though, so he asked her on a date. She thought he was charming, and they quickly married.

The pro-life movement inundated the husband's life as the wife spent most of her weekends speaking around the state. He joined the pro-life movement rather halfheartedly—he agreed to oversee one of the pro-life publications. His master's in journalism from Columbia University would come in handy, he thought, and besides, he wanted nothing to do with sidewalk counseling or protesting. When a colleague suggested that Roy go out to the clinic to take some action photos, Roy got a little nervous.

"I didn't want to identify with them," he says. "I hid my face with a sign."

After only a few weeks of visiting the clinics, though, McMillan changed his mind. "I realized we were saving lives," he says.

He underwent some other changes, too. The couple left their Southern Baptist Church and joined a Catholic Church. "I thought the sacraments would keep me on track," she says. Though they had both been through divorces, the Catholic Church allowed them to join—his marriage had been annulled, and her wedding had taken place at a justice of the peace.

"Her marriage was never sanctioned by God in the first place," he explains.

Soon after, in 1985, police arrested Roy McMillan and other protesters for trespassing on abortion doctor Mylan Chepco's property in Jackson. "We went to his house and knocked on the door, and he didn't answer," he remembers. "We wanted his neighbors to know there was an abortionist in the neighborhood. We wanted him to know we cared for him and the babies. We have a duty to expose wickedness."

Police did not arrest the protesters on site; rather, they arrested McMillan at work the next day for malicious trespassing. It was the first of 62 arrests for McMillan, but he still isn't sure what he did wrong. "If pro-choicers picketed my house, I'd take them some Kool-Aid because I'm proud of what I do," he says.

Officials did not convict McMillan, but local media plastered his face across the news. McMillan lost his job at Southern Farm Bureau Insurance after his bosses decided his latest news coverage was too controversial.

"I loved that job. I had been there for almost 15 years," he says.

McMillan hasn't held a job since then—a fact his critics point out with disdain. After he lost his job in '85, he and Beverly decided they could live off her salary, and he became an activist.

"You know, if I was volunteering for the Red Cross full-time, nobody would criticize me for not having a job," he says.

McMillan has done plenty to change his wife's mind over the years. It was the husband who convinced his wife to quit issuing contraceptives at her clinic. He said she was encouraging unmarried women to get farther away from God by permitting them to have sex.

"At first, I said, 'Oh, Roy,' and waved him off. I thought about it for a while, though, and realized he was right. Sex is for married life. I shouldn't be facilitating something that I and my church think is wrong," Beverly McMillan says.

Later, her husband reminded her that their Catholic beliefs say that sex is for procreation, and she quit issuing contraceptives to married women as well. Because the Catholic Church has issued statements saying that sex is for "babies and bonding" (a sentiment that is paraphrased from Pope Paul VI's "Humane Vitae"), the doctor instead encourages her patients to practice natural family planning. She counsels women on their menstruation cycles and explains the timetables of when a woman is most likely to get pregnant. When asked about the difference between natural planning and contraception—don't both methods try to inhibit pregnancies?—Beverly McMillan has a hard time explaining. She hands me a CD—"Contraception: Why Not" by Janet E. Smith.

Roy McMillan has done his part to bring new members to the movement as well—like Terri Herring, the two-year president of ProLife Mississippi.

'The Miracle of Life'

The Pro-Life Mississippi headquarters is in an office off Briarwood in a complex near where a now-closed abortion center used to operate. The main lobby is decorated with posters advocating abstinence and Christianity. Near the entrance, hundreds of brochures about abortion and sexually transmitted diseases beg to be read. The Ten Commandments hang near a wall calendar with pictures of babies and aborted fetuses. In the hallway, a sign reads, "VIRGIN: Teach your child it's not a dirty word." In the meeting room, where I interview President Terri Herring, plastic models of fetuses lie on tables.

Herring shows up late, apologizes and shakes my hand. She's casual, but pretty—a 46-year-old blonde with painted fingernails. She looks young, so when she mentions having a 27-year-old son, I'm surprised. She was a young mother, she tells me. In 1978, she and her husband moved to Mississippi from Arizona to attend Mississippi State University in Starkville. She was 19 when they had their first of three children.

"I was in labor on our first anniversary," she says.

They were scared. They didn't have much money, and their families lived back in Arizona. Herring quit school in order to be a mother while her husband balanced work and school in order to make ends meet.

"Having a baby interrupted my education, but it didn't ruin my life," she says. "I didn't plan all of my children, but they're all worthy people."

It was right after giving birth to her third son in 1984 that she became involved with Mississippi's pro-life movement, though when she watched "The Miracle of Life" back in high school, the development of unborn children had amazed her. Because of that interest, she researched information on births long before she ever had a child. When it came time to deliver her third son, she wanted a doctor who wasn't "scissor happy." She feared all of the excess procedures, like episiotomies, that many doctors performed. She wanted a female doctor, and she found one in the conservative Beverly McMillan.

After delivery, Roy McMillan was hanging around, delighting in the birth. When he asked Herring for permission to photograph her with her son for a pro-life magazine, she started asking questions. Roy answered her first question—when's the latest you can have an abortion?—with a lamenting "throughout the whole pregnancy."

Herring then became interested in the cause that would eventually become her life's work.

"I just remember thinking, 'That's terrible.' I was a young mother, and I just couldn't imagine it," she says, expressing grief at the lack of restrictions over abortions. Though Herring became interested in pro-life causes then, it wasn't until a year later that she really got involved. She was attending a pro-life convention when a speaker asked for "young women of child-bearing years" to come forward and agree to lobby at the state capitol.

Herring laughs at the memory. "Those were my huge qualifications," she says. "I was a young woman of child-bearing years."

'Please Do Not Open'

In 1986, Herring teamed up with six other young women to lobby for a law requiring women under 18 to have consent from both parents before having an abortion. They called themselves "Parents Can Help" and by the end of the legislative session, they had their reward: Mississippi passed a law requiring parental consent of both parents on April 1, 1986. Because of court challenges, though, the law did not take effect until June 1993. Only one other state—North Dakota—requires both parents to give consent before a minor can have an abortion, even if the young woman is estranged from one or both of her parents. The only option to avoid this is through a judicial bypass, which allows a minor to obtain approval from a court.

Though Herring's first year was, at least moderately, a success, she admits she had no real idea what she was doing. "We stumbled through that first year," she says. "We felt stupid every day."

Stupidity is something her Bible tells her to accept, though. She points me to 1 Corinthians 1:27, which reads, "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise."

Now, Herring volunteers about 20 hours a week. She doesn't protest much at the clinics, though she does rally with people there from time to time. She works more with the Legislature and planning projects like the tomb of the unknown child—a project Pro-Life Mississippi is coordinating to honor the aborted.

Events like these bring her cause to the forefront, she says, which is necessary for abortion to become illegal. "We can relate to the women," Herring says. "We cannot relate to or remember being an unborn child."

To make people relate to the unborn, Herring and others base much of their protests in showing pictures of aborted fetuses. Many of the pictures show babies aborted at later stages—often 16 weeks—with very few showing fetuses aborted at less than 12 weeks. Though abortion is illegal in Mississippi after 12 weeks, protesters distribute pictures of later-term abortions because they resemble more closely fully formed babies. The Centers for Disease Control reported in 2003 that 91 percent of abortions occur in the first trimester.

Herring used to be against showing pictures of aborted babies. She thought the pictures turned people away in disgust, but now, she thinks the key to abolishing abortions lies in people who have seen the pictures. "Pictures of a living baby do not prove the truth of abortion," she says. "No one wants to see these pictures, but without them, it's like a crime hasn't been committed."

The pictures really moved her. If people saw pictures of aborted babies, they'd understand she says, emphasizing that these are babies, not fetuses.

"It doesn't matter if you're a Christian or not. Look at these mangled babies."

Still, Herring wants people to view the pictures out of their own free will. She hands me a brochure with a sealed center. The sealed part contains a picture of a mangled boy—aborted at seven months. Under Mississippi law, an abortion at seven months is illegal.

"If you do not wish to view this material," the brochure reads in a warning about the graphic picture, "please do not open."

'Act Like It's Murder'

Roy McMillan isn't so subtle. He thrusts large placards of aborted fetuses before the eyes of the public several days a week outside of the Jackson Women's Health Clinic. Several pro-lifers have criticized him for this, but he says his actions are more honest. The business card for the Christian Action Group, which he formed in 1987, says: "If you believe abortion is murder… ACT like it's murder."

McMillan says too many pro-lifers just call themselves pro-life without ever taking action to back up their beliefs. "The pictures save lives," he asserts. He knows the pictures bother people—they bother him—but he is more concerned about dissuading women from having abortions. When Bound 4 Life, a pro-life group of mostly young people from Kansas City, protested in mid-September, one mother asked McMillan to take his signs down. Her 11-year-old daughter was at the clinic, and she didn't want the gruesome pictures to disturb her. McMillan refused to put them away.

"If it's hard to look at, imagine how it felt," he says.

Stuckey still isn't sold on the pictures. He wouldn't carry signs like Roy, he says. First of all, he can't even afford them—the larger signs cost about $300. He also adds that he tries to bring a message of "hope" to the women.

"There's a time and a place for those things, but I don't understand the situation of the women going to the clinic, so I don't like to show the pictures," he says.

McMillan relates the story of Christ's crucifixion—a public slaughtering that occurred in front of children—to justify the pictures. He adds, "(Christ) wouldn't have done that publicly if he didn't think it was legitimate."

Still, he will occasionally shield the public from the pictures. When protesting with other pro-lifers who disagree with the signs, he'll often leave them at home. He also tries to keep the most disturbing pictures faced toward the clinic, away from the street.

Though people, even his comrades, think he's a little too extreme, he reminds them that his calling is hard work. He explains: "It's tough being out there in the heat and humidity, getting rejected, but it's harder on those women and on those babies."

Because of that, he sometimes breaks his 15-feet restraining order. "I violate it—not routinely, though—in order to get literature to women, to pray or cry with a person," he says.

This is his "solidarity with the victims," and it extends beyond the clinic parking lot. When he deters women from abortion—and he's persuaded many women to forego the procedure, he says—he stays in contact with them. Earlier this year, he counseled a Chinese woman outside the clinic. She broke down in the parking lot, cried and asked Roy McMillan for help. He moved her into his home, and his wife delivered the baby.

"She wasn't a Christian, but she asked me to help her do the right thing. I got her a new job with health care; I bought her a car. I found her a place to live where she could help an elderly woman cook and clean," he says.

For Roy McMillan, the crux of following through with his ideals lies in these actions. The solution to ending poverty lies with people sharing their materials and money, he says—not in government programs like welfare.

"I think welfare's an unmitigated disaster," he says pointedly. "It enslaves poor people to a life of subsistence. It is not the role of the civil government to help the needy. People do need help, but it should be done by private charities and individuals."

Birth Control Murders, Too

Indeed, people do need help, especially in Mississippi, which holds the second-highest rate of child poverty and third highest rate of infant mortality in the country, according to the Children's Defense Fund. Over 87,000 children are without health insurance, and their parents aren't faring much better. The Institute for Women's Policy Research asserts that women in Mississippi earn an average of $25,600 a year—$5,000 less than the national average. An astounding 49 percent of women live below the poverty line in Mississippi.

This life of poverty is what leads many to abortions, Spillar says. "You can't possibly have all of the children you're biologically capable of having. Women don't want to have all of these children because they want to provide for the children they do have. They want those children to have a good quality of life," she says.

McMillan attributes problems like these to illicit sex—an evil he and other pro-lifers attack just as often as abortion.

But abstinence-only education isn't working. The National Center for Health Statistics released a study on Sept. 15, showing that 63.9 percent of men aged 15-19 have had sexual contact with a woman, while 4.5 percent of men in this age bracket have had sex with a man. Women aged 15-19 reported 63.3 percent had had sexual conduct with a man, and 10.6 percent reported having had sex with a female. The Washington Post called the study "the most comprehensive national survey of sexual behaviors ever released by the federal government."

"The drive for sex is natural," McMillan admits. "Nothing is more physically pleasurable than sex, but it can be misused."

And, he asserts, contraception is just another way to misuse sex. Pamphlets at the ProLife Mississippi office make claims like "those who abort generally have contracepted" and that contraception kills "new little human beings."

The effect of abstinence-only education is "a lot of pregnancies," Spillar says. "Abstinence-only kids end up with higher pregnancy rates. They're not prepared to deal with sexual encounters when they end up having one. They haven't been told how to protect themselves, and they wind up pregnant or infected with STDs."

Herring says she told her kids "all about" sex and protection. "To act like it's not available is ridiculous," Herring admits. "But kids aren't taught about birth control; they're taught to use it." But birth control is not her battle. "We don't center around the pill," she says, "because we have so many battles to fight."

It's a battle McMillan doesn't mind fighting. He even thinks premarital sex should be illegal. He knows people think that's crazy, but the movement has gotten many restrictive laws on the books. Why not implement another, prohibiting the thing he believes is driving the other side?

'Abortion-Free State'

With so many laws already in place, many activists are looking to Mississippi to become the first "abortion-free state." Out-of-state groups make pilgrimages to Mississippi to try to pressure the Jackson Women's Health Clinic to close down.

Hill's clinic has no intention of closing, though. In fact, she asserts, the clinic doesn't even have a high turnover rate: Most of the workers have worked there for years.

"The staff is really great. They're really committed to what they do. They actually talk to the women and hear what they have to say. You can't forget what these women look like, how much they need you," Hill says.

The added support of a national organization—the National Women's Health Center—with a Southern base strengthens the clinic, which flies doctors into the clinic four days a week.

"It's expensive, but it's a choice we made before we opened," Hill says. "They're some of the best doctors, and we needed experienced doctors who are committed."

Still, the pro-life activists are optimistic about the potential of eradicating abortion in Mississippi. They know their fighting grounds, though, and they know which issues to avoid. "If we debate on incest, rape and life of the mother, the pro-aborts are going to win," Herring says fiercely. Though Herring and Roy McMillan both believe delivering a baby born out of incest or abuse could lead to indicting the abusers ("We don't need to destroy the evidence," McMillan avows), Herring says these issues win more hearts to the "pro-abort" side.

Steering clear of those issues, though, they think they have a pretty fair chance of eliminating abortion in Mississippi. With clinics rapidly dwindling and laws multiplying, they may not be too far off. Of course, there's Roe v. Wade to consider, too. "Legally, we should let the people vote on abortion. Roe v. Wade circumvented the public," Herring says.

Even if Roe v. Wade were overturned, though, Herring says this will not be a win for her movement. Though her work is primarily policy-based, she insists that the battle over abortion primarily concerns the hearts and minds of people.

Spillar agrees that reversing Roe v. Wade would not be a win for the pro-life side. "They all act like abortion started in 1973," she says, exasperated. "Abortion has been a reality for women seeking to control their fertility since the millennium. Whether it is illegal or not, abortion goes on. They know when they can afford a child and when they can't. They will risk their lives, they'll lose their lives, to have an abortion."

Spillar adds that the dual parental consent is particularly trying on young women, who avoid legal abortions out of fear of telling their parents they're pregnant. Instead, she says, women self-induce miscarriages or they have their boyfriends beat them in the stomach with a bat to rid themselves of the pregnancy.

Violence begets violence

Roy McMillan's posters and his impassioned pleas at the clinic may attract attention, but it's his connections to violent pro-lifers that have secured his notoriety. A number of journalists declared him the best friend of famous gunman Paul Hill.

The state of Florida executed Paul Hill in September 2003 for the 1994 abortion clinic murders of physician John Britton of Fernandina Beach and retired Air Force Lt. Col. James Barrett of Pensacola. Hill was involved in the pro-life movement in Jackson before moving to Florida. When his fellow Florida activist Michael Griffin shot abortion doctor David Gunn (who worked for a clinic owned by the National Women's Health Center) on March 10, 1993, Hill circulated a petition calling for Griffin's acquittal.

"We, the undersigned, declare the justice of taking all godly action necessary to defend innocent human life, including the use of force. We proclaim that whatever force is legitimate to defend the life of a born child is legitimate to defend the life of an unborn child."

McMillan signed the petition.

This signature caught the eye of several pro-choice activists—many fear that McMillan could resort to violence as well.

Stuckey understands why some people are scared of his friend, but says the fear is unnecessary. "He has a tough exterior, but a soft heart. I've known him for 20 years, and he's not going to do anything. He's just opinionated," Stuckey says.

Beverly McMillan doesn't mind her husband's audacity or his arrest record. She has been arrested four times herself, but she shies away from much attention. "We already have one activist in the family," she says with a giggle. "Roy takes care of all of that pretty well."

Because of McMillan's signature on the petition for Griffin, and a signature on a similar petition calling for Paul Hill's acquittal, Planned Parenthood sued Roy McMillan as part of Planned Parenthood, Inc. v. American Coalition of Life Activists in 1995. Billed as the "Nuremberg Files" trial, the case is based on the publication of two Old West "Wanted" posters naming 12 abortion doctors across the country.

"When a Wanted poster appeared about a doctor and was circulated, doctors wound up being assassinated or experienced attempted assassinations. Those posters were the precursor," Spillar says.

Along with the posters, Planned Parenthood sued over the existence of a Web site listing personal information about the doctors and their families—with strikes through those who had already been murdered. Planned Parenthood called the actions "a campaign of terror and intimidation," and the American Coalition of Life, including Roy McMillan, lost. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court lowered the fines to be paid by the defendants, leaving McMillan to pay $526,336.14. Roy McMillan transferred his assets into his wife's name and filed bankruptcy.

"I don't think Paul Hill was a hero," says McMillan, who denies being close friends with him. "He's someone I knew once upon a time. When he was in Jackson, he did something that few people here had done: He actually went to clinics and tried to convince people to not have abortions."

"I don't condone violence," he adds. "But I think it's inevitable. Violence does beget violence. It's clearly happening every day against defenseless, innocent human beings. When families and the government refuse to defend these beings, people will rise up and use violence to stop violence."

Roy McMillan refuses to condemn these actions, likening them to violence against Nazis and deaths incurred in just wars (not the war in Iraq, though, which he does not support), but he says refusal to condemn is not condoning. The difference may be tenuous, but it's a clear one to him. McMillan himself is not willing to pay the consequences for such actions, and he adds, they may hurt the movement.

So, why all the arrests? Why the off-putting extremism?

"I'm a little different," he says with a twinkle in his eye. "If you're going to kill babies, government, you're going to have to deal with us."

Previous Comments

ID
78929
Comment

Bravo, Casey! This article reminds me a lot of Robert Duvall's The Apostle--looking directly at a character who seems unsympathetic in many ways, honestly, without blinking, and moving back and taking incrementally broader views until he starts making sense. You have a real gift for character studies--it was clear in the Katrina article, and it's even clearer here. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-09-29T01:35:19-06:00
ID
78930
Comment

Yeah McMillan makes lots of "sense". I especially liked the part where he says that pre-marital sex should be illegal.

Author
Elizabeth
Date
2005-09-29T10:11:29-06:00
ID
78931
Comment

Casey This was a great piece. As someone who's flipped McMillan off a few times....you did a wonderful job of making him endearing...or rather, understandable.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-09-29T11:15:23-06:00
ID
78932
Comment

Ditto Casey. I know in the past you and I have disagreed strongly over this very issue, but I applaud you for the honest, "fair and balanced" (yikes! sorry to use that, but it is true) look. Tom I have to agree with you too. Great analogy to The Apostle film. Just a question. Would any of you happen to have any statistics on this type of attempts to end a pregnancy: Spillar adds that the dual parental consent is particularly trying on young women, who avoid legal abortions out of fear of telling their parents theyíre pregnant. Instead, she says, women self-induce miscarriages or they have their boyfriends beat them in the stomach with a bat to rid themselves of the pregnancy. I'm not doubting this happens, but I am curious as to how many times this actually occurs.

Author
brandon
Date
2005-09-29T11:35:52-06:00
ID
78933
Comment

i judge my drive to work with whether he is set up or not, late or early. Making him understandable is easy, I don't think the same can be said for the clinic.

Author
*SuperStar*
Date
2005-09-29T11:41:19-06:00
ID
78934
Comment

Brandon, I'm not aware of any statistics and I'd be suspicious of any estimates, because, well: Where would the data come from? But one thing that does seem clear to me is that the less available abortion is, the more likely it is that this sort of thing is to happen. Desperate people do desperate things. Abortion is, in and of itself, not a fun procedure; it's extremely painful. That's why I think a combination of birth control, contraception, and emergency contraception will eventually put an end to most abortions. It's really a barbaric practice, and we should do everything in our power to make it obsolete by giving people better options--not by depriving them of the few options they have. What I think pro-choicers really need to do--and what pro-lifers really need to do, for that matter, if they're serious about reducing the number of abortions and not just regulating people's sex lives--is focus on providing birth control information and supplies to poor women--and put up some money so the freebie goods aren't quite so flimsy. There is a real need in this state and others for a pro-life/pro-choice alliance dedicated to reducing the number of abortions by providing better medical alternatives. Why is Viagra covered by most health plans, while birth control pills are not? That's a question pro-lifers really should be asking themselves if their real issue is with abortion, and not just with sex. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-09-29T13:06:56-06:00
ID
78935
Comment

And despite all of this, BTW, McMillan does make sense to me, even more so after reading this article. I met the man once. He put me off, but his emotional investment in this fight is obvious. For better or for worse, he sincerely buys into the worldview he has--and if any of us bought into that worldview, we'd agree with him. What I find remarkable is that I know Casey doesn't, and the fact that no discomfort, no overcompensation, nothing but barefaced honesty shows up in this article... Wow. Just wow. Everybody who hasn't seen The Apostle, BTW, should be required to do so. Especially if they're liberal and don't understand evangelical conservatism. You will want to hug a Southern Baptist after seeing this movie. (And I say this as someone who is very critical of the evangelical conservative worldview.) Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-09-29T13:12:59-06:00
ID
78936
Comment

I like sex, i like birth control to. It is a great combination but your right lifestyles given out at the health clinic don't do much for preventing pregnancies. Even insured workers don't have BC covered just the dr. visits.

Author
*SuperStar*
Date
2005-09-29T15:29:35-06:00
ID
78937
Comment

brandon, when have you and i disagreed over this issue? this isn't a issue i talk about much, and i dont remember ever discussing it with you. it isn't one i've invested myself into much because, honestly, it's never going to affect me as i dont have sex with men. still, i think this is probably the most "fair and balanced" article i've ever written, and i spent a whole lot of time with roy to get to this place. why do you think, note, that the clinic can't be made to be understandable? i did this piece to try to figure out the people beyond the faces i saw splashed across the street during lunch on fridays, and what i've learned -- despite still disagreeing ultimately with most of them -- is that anyone can be understood if you spend enough time trying to figure them out.

Author
casey
Date
2005-09-29T16:44:36-06:00
ID
78938
Comment

brandon, when have you and i disagreed over this issue? this isn't a issue i talk about much, and i dont remember ever discussing it with you. it isn't one i've invested myself into much because, honestly, it's never going to affect me as i dont have sex with men. still, i think this is probably the most "fair and balanced" article i've ever written, and i spent a whole lot of time with roy to get to this place. why do you think, note, that the clinic can't be made to be understandable? i did this piece to try to figure out the people beyond the faces i saw splashed across the street during lunch on fridays, and what i've learned -- despite still disagreeing ultimately with most of them -- is that anyone can be understood if you spend enough time trying to figure them out.

Author
casey
Date
2005-09-29T16:44:46-06:00
ID
78939
Comment

As a small sidenote: Thrown in with a group of splicey old drive-in film prints I recently obtained is an unusual (for the time) Swiss melodrama/documentary about abortion from 1966. It basically takes a pro-choice stand, though it was made at a time when abortion was still illegal throughout most of the world. Originally called "Arzt stellt fest..., Der," it was retitled "Wages of Sin" for the U.S. market and apparently billed falsely as something of a sexploitation flick. The imdb listing is here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060133/ I don't think this film would really offer much entertainment to most people--but it could have some value as an historical timepiece for those particularly interested in attitudes about abortion and birth control almost 40 years ago. If there is any interest perhaps I could try and arrange a screening. Ed

Author
ed inman
Date
2005-09-29T17:11:29-06:00
ID
78940
Comment

Casey, Oops, I may have confused you with a conversation (posting) I had with Ali Greggs. It was awhile back and I may have forgotten. Sorry. Once again I applaud the honesty in that article. Even when a person tries to set aside personal prejudices it is very, very difficult to do. I try a lot and fail a lot at it, but you did it. Not that you needed to hear this, but I will be reading your articles first b/c I know you will be fair in your writing.

Author
brandon
Date
2005-09-30T08:41:14-06:00
ID
78941
Comment

yeah, ali is more of a firebrand than i am. i love her for it. thanks for the compliments. it is hard to be unbiased - which is why we at the free press often dont make any claims to unbias. it's impossible to completely put aside personal ideas, but sometimes it is necessary to get the best, most honest story. thanks for reading!

Author
casey
Date
2005-09-30T12:18:40-06:00
ID
78942
Comment

Check it out. Casey's story and Thabi's photo are featured at the top of the AltWeeklies site right now.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-09-30T14:29:58-06:00
ID
78943
Comment

My view is I am glad women have a choice in this country and are not having abortions in back allies. Everytime I pass by the clinic on state street I just want to holler out the window at the protestors and say "GO HOME!" They don't realize how hard it is for a women to make up her mind to go into that place then to be harrassed when she gets to the door! If the choice has been made one should be able to go into clinic in PEACE!!

Author
vern
Date
2005-09-30T14:57:32-06:00
ID
78944
Comment

Here's a story from Alternet about parental notification laws: Andrea had $60 saved from her job at Burger King. I helped her raise the additional $200 she needed by borrowing it from an acquaintance at school. Although North Dakota had had an abortion clinic since 1980, there was also a law, in place since 1981, stipulating that both parents consent to a minor's abortion. Andrea went through the process of getting a judicial bypass. The clinic steered her though an interview with an amenable judge, I got her the money just in time and Andrea got her abortion. Although the experience was difficult for her, we were rather proud that we'd gone through it alone. I've thought about Andrea's story a lot lately, especially now that California -- which, like New York, generally has very liberal abortion laws -- is considering its first parental notification legislation. Missouri and other states are considering laws that would make it a crime to even counsel a girl about her options. Some 33 states enforce parental consent or notification laws. In fact, it is the most popular restriction among people who support Roe v. Wade. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center (released August 3, 2005) found that 73 percent of Americans supported some form of required parental consent. When asked why, people often cite the fact that a minor can't have a wisdom tooth removed without parental consent, so why should she be allowed to have an abortion on her own? But Andrea's story always seemed proof to me that parental consent laws --logical as they may sound -- don't work. If a girl doesn't want to tell her parents, she won't, even if they are nice and pro-choice.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-01T21:42:13-06:00
ID
78945
Comment

*nod* And the flipside: If you've got a 16-year-old girl who's pregnant by way of her father and a cold, opinionated pro-life judge, the poor girl ends up forced to induce an abortion in the girl's restroom even if she has obvious cause for a judicial bypass. I suspect that if most folks realized what parental notification laws really meant, they'd be less inclined to support them. It's kind of like the partial birth abortion law that seemed so logical and fair--too bad for those mothers who will be rendered sterile by giving birth, under complicated circumstances, to an anacephalic infant. Really, partial birth abortion is so incredibly rare that the few people who can get a doctor to perform one generally have very good reasons for it. And now those doctors, faced with those very good reasons, get to choose whether to do the right thing and risk going to prison, or pass the buck and stay safe. Parental notification laws, when they come into play at all, will be similarly harmful. You only have to look at who these laws are designed to punish to realize what their practical effects will be. Under normal circumstances, the laws have no effect. And when they do have an effect, the effect they have is destructive. But all of that sidesteps the real intended effect of these laws, which is to get their sponsors reelected. And if a few lives have to be destroyed down the road...well, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Doesn't surprise me that this passes muster in states like Mississippi, but I'm very disappointed that it's actually under consideration in California. At least there, it's probable that the law's victims will probably be able to get judicial bypasses. But I wouldn't want to be a 16-year-old victim of incest going to some right-wing Roy Moore type asking for permission to have an abortion done without parental consent, because those kinds of judges are concerned enough with their political futures that they're unlikely to grant such an exemption, no matter how much the situation merits it. Peace, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-01T23:10:43-06:00
ID
78946
Comment

"...it's probable that the law's victims will probably..." *smacking forehead*

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-01T23:12:29-06:00
ID
78947
Comment

I thought this piece was well-written and honest. Being the vehement pro-choicer that I am, I thought that the bare facts in themselves condemn the pro-life movement quite soundly enough, thankyou very much. You were perfectly fair to them, yet they still managed to make themselves sound nuts and extreme. Wonderful work, Casey. -Deb.

Author
flickad
Date
2005-10-03T17:25:34-06:00
ID
78948
Comment

Actually, it's a good story about old Roy. Not that I've ever met him, mind you, I just know him as the guy in the hat who was always outside the clinic on Briarwood, with the signs. I admired his tenacity and dedication to his beliefs.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2005-10-05T12:23:46-06:00
ID
78949
Comment

This story was VERY well written. I appreciated how Casey didn't add her personal views into it as so many journalists do today. It did leave me wondering what her views on the subject are and how she felt while talking to the protesters, but that is none of my business and is a whole different story. I liked the fact that it wasn't all about how Casey feels about these people. I am especially impressed if she happens to be pro-choice. I mean, I am not sure if it is because I am pro-choice, but from just reading I was appalled at Mr. McMillanís way of speaking to the women at the clinic and his views on things I think that if I had been there I wouldn't have been able to control my tongue or keep from writing my opinions in the story. I agree with everything "deb" has previously said. This was excellent writing and I enjoyed reading it. Wonderful work, Casey Wonderful work, Casey

Author
Holly Perkins
Date
2005-10-10T17:37:31-06:00
ID
78950
Comment

Once again, I am amazed at the talent of Casey Parks and I can only wonder how long the south will be so blessed with her gift. She is definately on her way to winning a Pulitzer. This article is by far the best I've read by her, no by anyone. Good Job Casey, good job!

Author
4merrepub
Date
2005-10-11T15:36:45-06:00
ID
78951
Comment

4merre, are you a family member of mine? comments like that seem too sweet to be true!

Author
casey
Date
2005-10-13T09:44:20-06:00
ID
78952
Comment

Hey, I agree with her, and I'm not in your family. At least not in the traditional sense. ;-) It was a wonderful story.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-13T09:46:10-06:00
ID
78953
Comment

Yes, Casey. We all think you are super fly. ;) Even if you don't know who Emmett Otter is...

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-13T09:48:03-06:00
ID
78954
Comment

oh, ladies, ladies. you make for such a nice surrogate family. ali, school me more on this otter fellow.

Author
casey
Date
2005-10-13T09:57:19-06:00
ID
78955
Comment

Emmet I hope that works.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-13T10:02:01-06:00
ID
78956
Comment

Damnit. Try this.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-13T10:03:53-06:00
ID
78957
Comment

Casey I may be family but I still can read and reading holds no bias, you either like what you read or you don't. Your work happens to be one of the lucky ones.

Author
4merrepub
Date
2005-10-13T11:14:54-06:00
ID
78958
Comment

which family member of mine are you, merre?

Author
casey
Date
2005-10-13T14:32:13-06:00
ID
78959
Comment

The one who loves your work.

Author
4merrepub
Date
2005-10-13T21:02:04-06:00
ID
78960
Comment

Emmet Otter's jug band Christmas?! Can't believe the link, I LOVED that show. Am buying it for xmas this year. Casey, your story was incredible. Just full of guts and great writing to see this point of view. Cheers, Laurel

Author
Izzy
Date
2005-10-16T07:41:59-06:00
ID
78961
Comment

Sorry if I'm myopic, but seems I had to go way back to Sept. to find a place to comment on the current Barbour stance on keeping up with the Joneses in South Dakota. Hell, yes, we can meet them and raise them a few. Only if the woman is on her deathbed, and maybe not even then. Did I miss this coverage here, I did look. This is a tad more serious to me than the mayor and some criminal, but hey.

Author
sunshine
Date
2006-03-03T16:29:56-06:00
ID
78962
Comment

p.s. The Mississippi ban legislation was mentioned on Democracy Now today. Do we have to be last in everything? Well, I'm sure some see it differently. If they are not unwantedly pregnant anyway.

Author
sunshine
Date
2006-03-03T16:42:11-06:00
ID
78963
Comment

McMillan is considered by most pro-life people in this area to be the equivelant of the posters on Democraticunderground.com who were happy that Tillman was killed in Iraq. Every side has its extremists who are an embarassment to the causes they support. I'm Pro-life and consider him to be a joke and an embarrassment. I remember reading his comments after a kook killed a doctor who performs abortions and he said he couldn't condemn the killing. Yes, Roy, I guess you forgot the part of the Bible where Christ told Peter to sheath his sword and healed the Roman soldier who was sent to arrest him.

Author
Kingfish
Date
2006-06-04T20:21:51-06:00
ID
78964
Comment

Well, it seems that he and his wife are pretty close to Terri Herring, the president of Pro-Life Mississippi, right? The truth is, much of that movement is made up of extremists, unfortunately. The fact that Herring doesn't advocate for more birth control to lower abortions speaks volumes.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-06-04T20:26:43-06:00
ID
78965
Comment

Note that I didn't say that most anti-abortion people are extremists. I said that they make up the "movement," for the most part. And it's very sad.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-06-04T20:27:29-06:00
ID
78966
Comment

wake up Jimbo. Afghanistan.

Author
Kingfish
Date
2006-06-04T20:41:53-06:00
ID
78967
Comment

Frontline will feature MS's abortion clinic this week. Tuesday night I think.

Author
emilyb
Date
2006-06-04T20:53:57-06:00

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