As the country awaits the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi reproductive justice advocates are keeping the fight alive. Ahead of the Juneteenth holiday, SHERo and Mississippi In Action will be gathering fellow abortion “freedom fighters” for a rally and call to action.
Abortion rights activists across Mississippi and the Fifth Circuit vow to continue defending abortion access and helping people find the care they need. Groups will gather in Smith Park in Jackson, Mississippi, on Friday, June 17.
Speaking with NewsOne, SHERo’s founder Michelle Colon said Mississippians aren’t sitting around waiting for the final decision to drop. Friday’s rally is an opportunity for folks to get an update on what’s going on and plug in for “marching orders” before the Dobbs decision is announced.
“We wanted to let our community know what the next steps were in accessing abortion care,” Colon said. “We’re going to be defiant to the end. We will continue to defend abortion rights and abortion access no matter what…we are not going to be deterred.”
The SHERo website lays out the urgency of the moment, noting that abortion access is a part of a “comprehensive reproductive health care and essential to people’s overall wellbeing and autonomy.” Organizing within a reproductive justice framework means the
In addition to abortion funds managed by Yellowhammer Fund, Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund and ARC Southeast, SHERo launched a practical support fund to assist people. Colon explained the practical support fund complements other efforts in the region. It’s not a replacement.
“The main thing is going to be making sure that all these abortion and practical support funds have the money in their coffers so they can help people,” Colon explained. “It’s dire. And we don’t want to have to deny anybody funding and they not be able to get their procedures.”
During a press conference last November, Mississippi in Action’s Executive Director Valencia Robinson said that while abortion was a critical part of health care, it involved much more.
“It is also directly intertwined with many other issues that Mississippi in Action and other reproductive justice organizations focus on, such as racial justice, gender equity, poverty, and mental health,” Robinson said. “Instead of focusing on finding new ways to ban abortion, we need our lawmakers to make health care more accessible and address the other challenges Mississippians and people across the country face every day.”
Reflecting on the leaked SCOTUS draft authored by Justice Samuel Alito, Colon said she wasn’t surprised by how the decision landed. But she did not expect Alito to be so heavy-handed in promoting anti-abortion rhetoric in even a draft decision.
“The language he used in that draft opinion piece was the same anti-abortion terrorist language and narrative that they’ve been using all this time,” she said. “I think for a lot of people, it was like a slap in the face.”
At the heart of the Dobbs case is a 15-week abortion ban previously passed by the Mississippi legislature. That’s one week earlier than the cut-off for services performed at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which ran the state’s last remaining abortion clinic. Conservatives have been chipping away at the right, passing various restrictions and bans, since it was established in the landmark case Roe v. Wade.
But conservatives have seized on this moment to deliver a death blow to what has been long seen as a settled fundamental right. Using the Dobbs case to overturn Roe leaves the fates of millions of reproductive-age people up to the states creating vast disparities based on where people live.
Reproductive justice advocates like Colon and Robinson urge people to seek out good sources of information about what to do if and when they need an abortion. Colon said language such as “going underground” was unhelpful because people seeking the help they need are not doing anything wrong.
“I’m very strong in my resolve that we will defy, we are determined, and we are going to continue helping people navigate through this,” she said. “I definitely want people to know that just because abortion will not be legal, they can still get a safe abortion.”