A Daily news digest by Jasper van Santen

Mississippi’s only abortion clinic fights to stay open amid onslaught of protest – guardian.co.uk

In Really?!? on July 10, 2012 at 12:03

Mississippi’s only abortion clinic fights to stay open amid onslaught of protest 

Mississippi is not alone in its attempts to limit access to abortions. Across conservatives states, there has been a concerted campaign by conservative, anti-abortion groups to shift the focus away from the treatment room to the court room in a bid to undo the constitutional right to abortion enshrined in the Roe v Wade supreme court decision in 1973.

Last year the number of bills to restrict abortion, from the defunding of Planned Parenthood to gestational limits, were the highest on record, according to the Guttmacher Insitute.

One of the most controversial in recent months was Virginia’s attempt to pass a law requiring women seeking a termination to have a mandatory transvaginal ultrasound. Eleven states, including Mississippi, have similar laws in the pipeline, while a further 11 state’s legislators have proposals to restrict medicated abortion, and 14 have introduced laws that seek to restrict abortion later in pregnancy – but prior to foetal viability.

Mississippi, the poorest state in the US, already has some of America’s strictest laws on the procedure and an accordingly low abortion rate. But lawmakers are determined to bring it down to zero and are throwing their political muscle behind their goal.

Last November, residents rejected a “personhood” amendment to the state constitution that would have eliminated all abortions and some forms of contraception by defining life as beginning at the moment of fertilization. During the debate, Bryant, then the Republican candidate for governor, warned that if the amendment failed, “Satan wins”.

“This is a battle of good and evil of biblical proportions,” he said.

In April, he signed HB1390, another constitutional scheme with the same aim.

Such increasingly intense rhetoric against abortion from state leaders has silenced the pro-choice voice. One physician who spoke to the Guardian refused to be quoted because he has been falsely vilified as an abortion doctor after speaking out in the past.

“Even the common sense things don’t get said” he said. “It’s hard to have a reasonable discussion.”

Doctors are ostracised for pro-choice beliefs. In April, the state’s Republican lieutenant governor, Tate Reeves, blocked the appointment of Dr Carl Reddix, a Harvard and John Hopkins-trained doctor from the state’s board of health. Reddix does not perform abortions but has admitting privileges and is the physician who the clinic would call if a woman in their care was rushed to hospital.

Abortion opponents pray outside the clinic. Photograph: Rogelio V Solis/AP

Critics argue that such overtly political decisions by leaders who frame the debate in moral terms clouds their ability to address the many problems Mississippi faces.

One example is a blind spot over the teenage birth rate, the highest in the country. Mississippi has 55 births per 1,000 teens aged 15 to 19 in 2010, 60% higher than the US average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Yet until this year, there was no mandatory sex education in its schools. Even then it is limited. Following a new law, introduced in 2011 to tackle teen pregnancy, schools can choose from two curriculums, one emphasising abstinence, the other an “abstinence-plus” programme, which includes information about contraceptives and sexually transmitted diseases. Parents also have to opt their children into the programme, restricting the number of children who receive it.

Felicia Brown-Williams, regional director of Planned Parenthood Southeast, who has been advocating sex education in schools for years, said it was at least “a step in a positive direction”.

Brown-Williams sees at first hand the effect Mississippi’s poverty

 

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