Mississippi’s Last Legal Abortion Clinic

Behold
The Photo Blog
Feb. 7 2013 11:00 AM

Mississippi’s Last Legal Abortion Clinic

A woman waits for a procedure at Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the last abortion-services clinic in Mississippi, in November 2012.
A woman waits for a procedure at Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the last abortion-services clinic in Mississippi, in November 2012.

Maisie Crow

The Jackson Women’s Health Organization is currently the only place in the state of Mississippi where women can get safe and legal abortions.

Last spring, the Mississippi legislature passed a bill requiring all doctors performing pregnancy terminations to have hospital admitting privileges—a measure that reproductive health advocates denounce as an arbitrary way to close clinics and de facto ban abortion. Hospitals can, and, in fact, do, deny those privileges on religious grounds: The Jackson center has been rejected by seven of them thus far.

Miriam, 21, at a pre-operation appointment in November 2012. Patients are required to wait 24 hours before having an abortion. Prior to that, they must fill out paperwork, receive an ultrasound, undergo counseling and speak with a doctor about the procedure.
Miriam, 21, at a pre-operation appointment in November 2012. Patients are required to wait 24 hours before having an abortion. Prior to that, they must fill out paperwork, receive an ultrasound, undergo counseling and speak with a doctor about the procedure.

Maisie Crow

Matt Friedeman, a professor at Welsey Biblical Seminary, sings outside the clinic gates as women arrive for a counseling session in November 2012.
Matt Friedeman, a professor at Welsey Biblical Seminary, sings outside the clinic gates as women arrive for a counseling session in November 2012.

Maisie Crow

Photographer and documentary filmmaker Maisie Crow read an article about the clinic on Jezebel and hopped on a plane in her home in New York City to cover the story and the court battle to keep the JWHO open.

Advertisement

“This story wasn’t told the way I wanted to tell it; it was too theoretical,” Crow said. “I wanted to look at the people this law actually affects.”

For six months, she documented the clinic’s daily struggles in a multimedia project, “The Last Clinic,” in which her pictures appear along with a 50-minute documentary and a written essay.

Dr. Willie Parker performs an abortion in November 2012 while Stephanie Battle assists. Parker is one of two physicians who fly to Mississippi to work at the clinic. It has had difficulty finding local providers.
Dr. Willie Parker performs an abortion in November 2012 while Stephanie Battle assists. Parker is one of two physicians who fly to Mississippi to work at the clinic. It has had difficulty finding local providers.

Maisie Crow

Ron Nederhoed, a Pro-Life Mississippi board member, and Ester Mann, the organization’s secretary, outside the clinic’s parking lot in November 2012.
Ron Nederhoed, a Pro-Life Mississippi board member, and Ester Mann, the organization’s secretary, outside the clinic’s parking lot in November 2012.

Maisie Crow

Crow is used to tackling difficult subjects: Two years ago, she flew to Ukraine to photograph and interview the survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. But every project comes with its challenges. For this piece, Crow says she originally found it hard to include the anti’s: She’d gone down to Mississippi to tell the story of the clinic, not that of the pro-life movement.

“Then I realized I didn’t have the right to deny their voice,” Crow added. “Otherwise, it would have been a piece of activism, not a piece of storytelling.”

Crow’s work is a matter-of-fact documentation about abortion without any added bells or whistles. However, she hopes to challenge the “idea that abortion is a terrible thing.”

One of Crow’s main subjects, 21-year-old Miriam, had to undergo two abortions during the six months that Crow was reporting.

“I was not excited when she told me she was pregnant again,” Crow explained. “But I thought: Why is she pregnant again? It’s because of the lack of education there.”

A few days ago, Crow received a text from the center’s director saying that the center had been repainted bright pink: They won’t go down without a fight.

Aarimis Armstrong, 21, a scrub technician, prepares to weigh a specimen after a procedure in November 2012. Armstrong began working at the clinic a week after she had her own abortion there. She said she wanted to use her experience of what it felt like to make the decision. Having an abortion, she said, had been the only option for her.
Aarimis Armstrong, 21, a scrub technician, prepares to weigh a specimen after a procedure in November 2012. Armstrong began working at the clinic a week after she had her own abortion there. She said she wanted to use her experience of what it felt like to make the decision. Having an abortion, she said, had been the only option for her.

Maisie Crow

Security cameras monitor the parking lot. According to Shannon Brewer-Anderson, the clinic’s director, “We have eight cameras to cover the entire perimeter against the ‘anti's’ because you never know what they are going to do when [the staff] are there and when they are not there.
Security cameras monitor the parking lot. According to Shannon Brewer-Anderson, the clinic’s director, “We have eight cameras to cover the entire perimeter against the ‘anti's’ because you never know what they are going to do when [the staff] are there and when they are not there.

Maisie Crow

Pro-Life Mississippi president Dana Chisholm (center) and other protesters seen from the window of the security guard’s car as he drives one of the clinic’s doctors to the airport in November 2012.
Pro-Life Mississippi president Dana Chisholm (center) and other protesters seen from the window of the security guard’s car as he drives one of the clinic’s doctors to the airport in November 2012.

Maisie Crow

The surgery room sits empty on a day when surgeries are not performed. Because doctors must travel to the clinic from out of state, the facility provides abortions only three days a week. The staff spends the rest of the week answering phones and preparing for surgery days.
The surgery room sits empty on a day when surgeries are not performed. Because doctors must travel to the clinic from out of state, the facility provides abortions only three days a week. The staff spends the rest of the week answering phones and preparing for surgery days.

Maisie Crow

“The Last Clinic” could very well document the final days of the organization altogether. Since the JWHO isn’t in compliance with new state laws, it could have to close as soon as the Mississippi Department of Health hears its case, sometime in the following days. If it shuts down, the women of Mississippi will have to travel outside the state to terminate a pregnancy—or do it illegally, putting their health, even their lives, at risk.

  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Dec. 19 2014 4:15 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? Staff writer Lily Hay Newman shares what stories intrigued her at the magazine this week.