The Jackson Women’s Health Organization was just painted bright pink. (Aaron Cassara)
The Fondren neighborhood in Jackson, Mississippi, is one of those attractive, deliberately indie enclaves with coordinated pastel storefronts and cheekily named cafes—the type of place populated by artists, professionals and young families all living in harmony. Right in the middle of the main drag there’s a freshly painted pink building that blends in nicely with the teal and Easter egg-yellow facades surrounding it. Once inside, you’re hit with splashes of salmon and peach and purple. The furniture is red leather, and colorful art hangs on the wall.
The pink place isn’t an organic taco shop or a community center. It’s an abortion clinic.
The Jackson Women’s Health Organization has been in the news as of late: it has been in serious danger of shutting down since Republican legislators passed a regulation requiring its doctors to secure hospital admitting privileges. After a temporary block by a federal judge, the clinic has been officially informed that it is in non-compliance with the new law. It has filed for an adminstrative hearing, knowing that it will be embroiled in a court battle for months to come. Protesters regularly congregate around the entrance with folding chairs and signs. The day I visited Jackson there were a few stragglers, awkwardly hovering by the front door with posters mercifully free of visuals. I was informed that this was a slow day.
At first glance, Fondren is the best place for this clinic to be. It likely has a higher concentration of pro-choice residents than any community in the state.
“I was stunned when I first came to Fondren in ’95,” says Diane Derzis, the owner of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. “The district is totally unlike the rest of the city. It’s avant-garde. It’s got its own special thing.” She says people in the community are constantly saying things like, “Go, girl. Y’all are wonderful.”
But with an abortion clinic comes protesters. With protesters come harrowing chants and plastic babies and giant gruesome photos of aborted fetuses with missing limbs. Plopping an abortion clinic in a once junkie-addled, now hipster neighborhood produces an uncomfortable iteration of NIMBY hesitance. Would I, a pro-choice feminist, want to live next door to an abortion clinic in Mississippi? At that moment, I wasn’t so sure.