Mississippi ladies, you still aren’t safe. Even though the personhood amendment didn’t pass, the Mississippi government hasn’t given up. There is one abortion clinic in the entire state, and it may be about to close. House Bill 1390, already passed and awaiting the governor’s approval, will require that each doctor that works in the clinic have admitting privileges in a local hospital. Two major problems with this: One, many hospitals will not grant admitting privileges to out-of-state doctors, and a few of the clinic’s doctors live out of state to avoid harassment. Two, the nearby hospitals are religiously affiliated and have the right to deny any doctor admitting privileges; therefore, the doctors are unlikely to be able to comply. Governor Bryant argues that the bill is designed to “stop back-room abortions” by making sure that the doctors providing abortion services are certified OB-GYNS who may admit patients to a local hospital, if necessary. Clearly, the way to stop back alley abortions is to close your state’s only abortion clinic. For the record, the doctors at the clinic are board-certified OB-GYNs already, and lack of admitting privileges does not prevent the health center’s patients from being able to receive care, if necessary.
This bill has a good chance of becoming law soon, and what will this mean for Mississippi women? Traveling out of state is not easy for women who lack the funds, childcare, or ability to take time off work. A return to back-alley abortions is exactly what Gov. Bryant is proposing.
It’s important to remember what it was like before abortion was legal, especially for us younger women who didn’t live through that time. You can read the story of a 19-year-old’s illegal abortion in 1962 here at Alternet. As you read about her helplessness, the lack of support she had available to her, the financial strain, the travel to a foreign country, realize she was one of the lucky ones. She was able to come up with the money. She didn’t get an infection. Her uterus wasn’t perforated. She didn’t get sexually assaulted by the doctor who knew she wouldn’t be able to report it without getting in trouble herself. We can never, ever go back to this.
Let’s get real: Gov. Bryant’s statements about protecting women’s health are a lie, just like anti-choice advocates protestations about saving fetus’s lives are a lie. Law’s restricting abortion access are about restricting and punishing women’s sexuality, full stop. If this law goes through, Mississippi women are in trouble. It’s already an unhappy place for sexual health; it was found to have the highest teen birth rate in the nation a couple years ago, and schools weren’t even required to teach sex ed until last year. If this bill is signed, women in this state are going to need our help. Activists, keep watch and get ready.