Threats and harassment grow for clinic escorts and patients at Jackson Women’s Health Organization

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The community of Fondren said they continue to to feel harassed and threatened by anti-choice protestors outside the Jackson Women’s Health Organization clinic.

Protests and prayer gatherings are nothing new outside the state’s only abortion clinic. On a weekly basis, more people show up with loud microphones, and speakers create a hostile atmosphere for patients.

“You don’t have to help her kill her child, sir,” one man yelled at patients. “This is slavery in abundance for babies to be murdered,” another man screamed into a megaphone over the fence.

On any of the three days a week, the clinic is open, and interactions like this are constant for patients trying to get to their appointments.

“You’re on a bullhorn yelling, ‘Please don’t kill your baby. If you go in there, you’re still going to be the mother of a dead baby.’ People screaming at you saying you’re going to Hell,” Pink House Defender co-organizer Derenda Hancock explained. “Getting up on a ladder and looking over a privacy fence at a medical facility, I don’t see how there’s not something illegal about that.”

Clinic escorts have to direct cars pulling in and out of the clinic as anti-choice protestors attempt to block the driveway and troll patients as they walk through the parking lot.

“It can be a stressful situation for someone trying to access an abortion because you don’t know what’s going on in their lives,” clinic escort Ellie Rome said. “Or what made them make this decision because you never know what’s going on in someone’s life. That’s what bothers me so much because they don’t know these people.”

“Terrified is probably an understatement because a lot of women come here alone,” Hancock added. “With people trying to stop you, standing in front of your car screaming at the top of their lungs, I can’t imagine the experience myself.”

Despite violating both Mississippi state law and city of Jackson ordinances against noise complaints and public disturbance, these groups get away with almost no penalties.

“Law enforcement basically leaves them alone on anything,” Kim Gibson with the Pink House Defenders said. “They can bring those ladders, be as loud as they want, and do whatever they want. We can’t even have trespassing enforced.”

A 2008 and 2014 consent decree with Pro-Life Mississippi said Jackson unlawfully applied their sign, special events, and noise ordinances. The city was ordered to pay Pro-Life Mississippi and protest leaders $5,000 for full settlement of damages. That consent decree expired in 2017. But the volunteers who work with the clinic said it’s like the consent decree is still in effect.

While on-site we did run into one woman with Pro-Life Mississippi attempting to peacefully hand out pamphlets to patients with their version of alternatives to abortion. She claimed her only goal is to fight for the unborn without harassing others. Lately, clinic escorts have also brought pepper spray to use in self-defense if anti-choice protestors get too hostile. For more examples of these encounters, click here.

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