April 17, 2013 10:06:22 AM
JACKSON -- Mississippi's only abortion clinic continued seeing patients Tuesday, the day after a federal judge temporarily stopped the state from closing it.
Several people wearing florescent yellow vests labeled "Clinic Escort" helped women find parking places and walked with them into the cherry pink building in a Jackson retail district. Outside an iron fence that separates Jackson Women's Health Organization from the street, abortion opponents stood on a sidewalk and implored women not to end their pregnancies.
"Mom, come talk to us. Your baby is a precious gift from God," Leslie Hanks of Denver, who has been vice president of Colorado Right to Life, said to one woman. "Please don't go in and see people who kill babies, ma'am."
The woman kept walking without glancing at Hanks.
One of the clinic escorts, Laurie Bertram Roberts, of Jackson, wore a T-shirt with the slogan, "I (Heart) My Abortion Provider."
"No matter what side of the abortion issue you stand on, it should be important that women are not harassed, that they are not terrorized, that they are not stopped when they are trying to access safe and legal care in America, and that's what happens to women trying to come in and out of clinics," said Roberts, Mississippi president of the National Organization for Women. "And so we're here to try to put our bodies between protesters and patients as they come in and out of the clinic."
U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III ruled Monday that the state can't close Jackson Women's Health Organization while the clinic still has a federal lawsuit pending. No trial date has been set.
The suit, filed last summer, challenges a 2012 state law that requires each OB-GYN who does abortions at the clinic to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. The clinic acknowledges it has been unable to get the privileges.
Jordan allowed the law to take effect last July 1, but he blocked the state from closing the clinic while the clinic tried to get admitting privileges. Such privileges can be difficult to obtain, because hospitals often won't give them to out-of-state physicians. The clinic uses out-of-state OB-GYNs, including one from Chicago.