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Mississippi's last abortion clinic shuts down. The owner promises to continue working

Clinic escorts use party horns and whistles to counter the presence of anti-abortion activist Gabriel Olivier, right, outside the Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic in Jackson, Miss., on July 6, 2022.
Rogelio V. Solis
/
AP
Clinic escorts use party horns and whistles to counter the presence of anti-abortion activist Gabriel Olivier, right, outside the Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic in Jackson, Miss., on July 6, 2022.

Mississippi's last abortion clinic — and the one at the center of the Supreme Court case used to overturn Roe v. Wade — shut its doors for the last time.

Earlier this week, the Jackson Women's Health Organization lost their bid to temporarily block the state's trigger law that bans most abortions from going into effect. Now, they are packing up and moving out, Diane Derzis who owned the clinic said.

They served the last crowd of patients on Wednesday.

The patients are "devastated" by the clinic's closure, said Derzis who spoke to NPR's Morning Edition.

"And you would be surprised at how many have no idea that this bill has passed and that abortion is now illegal in Jackson, as well as other states surrounding. So lots of anger," she said of the response.

On Thursday, the clinic's attorneys filed paperwork asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to step in and effectively allow the organization to reopen, according to The Associated Press.

The center had long been Mississippi's only abortion provider. In 2018, the state enacted a law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. The Jackson clinic and one of its doctors sued state officials, saying the law was unconstitutional. The case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where judges ultimately declared there is no constitutional right to an abortion.

Abortion-rights advocates posted supportive signs on the privacy fencing outside the Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic in Jackson, Miss., on July 7, 2022.
Rogelio V. Solis / AP
/
AP
Abortion-rights advocates posted supportive signs on the privacy fencing outside the Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic in Jackson, Miss., on July 7, 2022.

In the meantime, Derzis is not swayed. She intends to continue providing abortion services to women who need it.

The clinic is now headed to Las Cruces, New Mexico, about 40 miles north of El Paso, Texas, to help people there, she said.

"New Mexico, for the time being, is a very receptive state. We've been welcomed. And that obviously is closer to the Texas and Oklahoma borders and Arizona. So it seemed like one of the places we need to be," Derzis said.

Those states have enacted, or plan to establish, near-total abortion bans following the Supreme Court case this summer.

Derzis' organization will be providing surgical abortions in New Mexico, she said.

In the meantime, her clinic is referring patients in Mississippi that are still calling the Jackson Women's Health Organization for help to other locations out of state.

"We've probably referred 100 people yesterday to a nearby state," she said. Many of her patients ended up in Columbus, Ga. She believes many women in states without access to the procedure will need to travel to get an abortion now.

"So, you know, that's the future of abortion care in America," she said.

In Las Cruces, Derzis said she is preparing to handle a lot of cases. Those will likely be women further along in their pregnancies.

"You don't normally find out you're pregnant until you're further along than six weeks in a pregnancy. So by the time travel and all of the rest of those things occur, you're talking about women who are going to be further in their pregnancy, so we're certainly expecting that," she said. "And that, again, is another problem with these type of laws. You're forcing women into later gestational ages, and the risks do increase at that stage."

Derzis doesn't believe the legal fight will end anytime soon. She believes even as she moves to another more receptive state, she has a target on her back.

"I see many, many years of litigation ahead of us," she said. "But as long as it is legal in the state in which we are providing the service, I intend to do that."

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