As Mississippi's sole remaining abortion provider, JWHO is widely regarded as a trophy in the ongoing battle over abortion in the South.
Photo by R.L. Nave.
Although officials from Jackson Women's Health Organization are applauding yesterday's federal court ruling to keep the facility open, the mood remains tense at the Fondren clinic.
"There's a heightened sense of uneasiness," JWHO's owner Diane Derzis told the Jackson Free Press at the clinic this morning.
That sense became more pronounced when a young bearded man wearing a military-style waist pack entered the clinic without an appointment this morning. A Jackson police officer forced the man, who proclaimed that he was unarmed, to exit the clinic and leave the premises.
Last year, a state law went into effect that requires all abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges from a local hospital. The law prompted a lawsuit. JWHO prevailed when U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III allowed the clinic to continue operating while hospitals reviewed the clinic's applications.
On Monday, Jordan extended the injunction, ruling that the state cannot close the clinic while it still has a federal lawsuit pending to challenge the 2012 law. Jordan's ruling came three days before the Mississippi Department of Health was scheduled to hold a license revocation hearing for the clinic over its acknowledged inability to get the required admitting privileges. That hearing has been cancelled.
As Mississippi's sole remaining abortion provider, JWHO is widely regarded as a trophy in the ongoing battle over abortion in the South. Alabama recently passed an admitting privileges law similar to Mississippi's. Meanwhile, abortion opponents plan to reintroduce the question of personhood--a definition of when life begins that is enshrined in the state Constitution--to Mississippi voters. Personhood measures in Mississippi and other states have been unsuccessful.
"I was disappointed that the judge would proclaim from on high to keep the clinic open," said Leslie Hanks, a pro-life demonstrator who traveled to Jackson from Colorado.
Hanks said she recently helped put Personhood on the ballot in her home state for a fourth time. Clutching a Bible outside of JWHO, Hanks added that "bloodshed begets bloodshed," meaning that she believes performing abortions are tantamount to terrorist actions such as Monday's bombing of the Boston Marathon.
It's that kind of talk that worries Derzis. In 1998, Eric Rudolph bombed a Birmingham clinic Derzis owned at the time. Rudolph was also convicted of the 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta, which drew comparisons to yesterday's explosions in Boston.
Upon hearing the news of Jordan's ruling, Derzis said she called the Jackson Police Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation to put the agencies on alert.
"This is a war. We won a battle," Derzis said. "(But) this isn't finished."