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This Mississippi clinic is at the center of the case that could end Roe v. Wade

This women's health clinic in Jackson, Miss., is at the center of <em>Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization</em>,<em> </em>which comes before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Sarah McCammon
This women's health clinic in Jackson, Miss., is at the center of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which comes before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Updated December 1, 2021 at 1:40 PM ET

Outside the Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic in Mississippi on a typical morning, there's a steady stream of protesters trying to persuade women not to go inside.

"We're here to help y'all," one young woman called to patients on a summer morning this year. "Please don't do this."

That morning, she and another protester were shouting through a black tarp wrapped around the clinic's gate to protect patients as they go inside. The protesters declined to give their names, saying they don't trust reporters to represent them fairly.

They read aloud a passage from the book of Psalms in the Bible.

"It says, 'For you formed my inward parts, you knit me together in my mother's womb," they said through the tarp. "We're here to help you and support you in any way we can."

This clinic, the last remaining abortion facility in the state, is at the center of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which was argued before the Supreme Court on Dec. 1. The clinic is challenging a state law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy — well before a fetus is viable. If the court upholds the law, it would reverse its own precedent, which says that states can't interfere with the right to an abortion at that stage.

The building, on a busy street in Mississippi's capital city, is painted a bubble-gum pink.

"It's another day at the Pink House, sadly," said Cory Drake, a clinic escort who spends three or four days a week here, helping patients from their cars into the waiting room.

"Mornings are a little bit hectic. Afternoons slow down a bit," Drake said. "We can have anywhere from five to 120 protesters outside, just depending on the day of the week."

Shannon Brewer, the director at Jackson Women's Health Organization.
Sarah McCammon / NPR
Shannon Brewer, the director at Jackson Women's Health Organization.

Shannon Brewer, the director at Jackson Women's Health, said the tensions playing out in front of her clinic doors reflect the larger fight playing out across the U.S., and in the Supreme Court.

"This is the way that they chip away at abortion until it goes away," Brewer said. "It's 15 weeks, and then it's gonna be 14 weeks, and then it's gonna be 10. This is the way that they do it."

One of the clinic's abortion providers, Dr. Cheryl Hamlin, said most of her patients are still within the first trimester, and doctors here will not perform abortions beyond 16 weeks of pregnancy.

"[The ban is] clearly directed at us because our limit's 16 weeks," Hamlin said.

Hamlin said other restrictions already in place are delaying the procedure for some patients. Some live hours away from Jackson, Miss. — site of the only clinic in the state. Mississippi law requires patients to wait 24 hours for an abortion after their first appointment, adding more time.

But for opponents of abortion rights, the prospect of a Supreme Court allowing further restrictions is the culmination of decades of activism.

"We've always known that eventually Roe would be reversed, and we wanted to be ready for that day," said Sarah Zarr, a regional manager with Students for Life of America. She's helping to organize a national door-knocking campaign in cities including Jackson that's designed to promote local crisis pregnancy centers, which counsel patients against abortion.

Zarr said anti-abortion-rights groups like hers also are working in state legislatures to introduce more restrictive abortion laws, including regulations on medication abortion, an increasingly popular option for many patients and an alternative to surgical abortion. Zarr said she hopes such restrictions will pass scrutiny under an increasingly conservative Supreme Court.

Already, the court has allowed a Texas law to take effect banning most abortions in that state — possibly signaling a willingness to allow more states like Mississippi to restrict abortion even further.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.