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Pro-choice activists rally in Jackson

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Pro-choice activists rally in Jackson

Between 40 to 50 protesters gathered on the steps of the Mississippi State Capitol building Friday night to rally for the preservation of abortion rights in America. 

Advocates organized pro-choice protests across the country this week following the explosive leak by Politico of a draft opinion that indicated the U.S. Supreme Court is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade, potentially setting the stage for the procedure to become illegal in Mississippi and many other states.

 The opinion stemmed from the Mississippi case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which centers around a challenge to the state’s 15-week abortion ban.

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, Mississippi’s 2007 “trigger law” banning abortion in the state would go into effect. The only exceptions would be “cases where necessary for the preservation of the mother’s life or where the pregnancy was caused by rape” and a criminal charge has been filed with law enforcement. 

Every speaker at the protest emphasized that regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, there will still be a need for activists to push for legalization and work to make reproductive health care accessible.

601 For Period Equity, Mississippi In Action, Immigrant Alliance For Justice and Equity, Democratic Socialists of America and Party for Socialism and Liberation organized the event. 

Meghan, the first speaker, shared the story of her being forced to carry a pregnancy to term after she was raped. The assault occurred while she was trying to jog two miles back to her home after her car broke down. 

Even though Meghan took a Plan B pill after her assault, she became pregnant.

“In my shock and trauma haze, it took me a good while to realize or realistically accept what was happening to my body,” Meghan said. 

When Meghan realized she was pregnant, she had already passed the 16-week limit on when abortions are performed in Mississippi. She said looking at her growing belly was a constant reminder of the worst thing that had ever happened to her. 

“The nightmare is ever present,” Meghan said. “I couldn’t help but think this would have never happened if I had just been able to get a safe abortion.”

Other speakers at the protest emphasized that the heaviest burdens in a post-Roe Mississippi would lie on the shoulders of Black and brown women in the state. 

Lorena Quiroz, executive director of Immigrant Alliance For Justice and Equity, a progressive immigrant rights advocacy organization, said anti-abortion activists and politicians who claim to be pro-life while not supporting access to health care for undocumented people are hypocritical. 

“If you really wanted healthy babies then you would be extending health care benefits to all women, but they’re not … all they want to do is control our bodies,” Quiroz said. 

In Mississippi, pregnant people who are undocumented may be eligible for health care coverage through Medicaid during their births. They cannot receive any public prenatal or postpartum benefits. 

Quiroz also pointed out that many of the undocumented women who come to the U.S. from Central America are fleeing physical and sexual violence in their own countries. 

“They flee to a country they think is supposed to protect them, but they’re not protected,” Quiroz said. 

Derenda Hancock, who acts as a coordinator for the Pink House Defenders, a volunteer group that safely escorts women in and out of their appointments at the state’s only abortion clinic, said she was surprised by the lack of anti-abortion protestors this week. Only one person she escorted into the clinic this week mentioned the leak, she said.

“You’d be terribly surprised by how many people come there (Jackson Women’s Health Organization) without knowing any of this (Dobbs case) is going on,” Hancock said. 

Though upset by the leak, it was what Hancock expected.

“The fact that it leaked was a big surprise, but what they leaked was not a big surprise. There’s not a win here,” Hancock said. 

Hancock said in a post-Roe Mississippi, Jackson Women’s Health Organization will likely close down, and the Pink House Defenders will cease to exist. However, her advocacy group We Engage, which confronts anti-abortion protesters, will continue its work. Likely, this will look like organizing in states where abortion remains legal, but anti-abortion activism continues. 

“There are no safe states. There are only temporarily safe states,” Hancock said. 

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