In Mississippi, abortion opponents dissent from Supreme Court ruling

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JACKSON, Miss. – The next morning Roe vs. Wade was overthrown, anti-abortion protesters were still outside the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the clinic at the center of the Dobbs decision, with their graphic placards and their pamphlets, preaching against the soon-to-be-banned procedure.

But for many Mississippians, Saturday sparked a more complicated conversation.

Ten miles from the clinic, at Strawberry Patch Park in nearby Madison, Sharon Gilmore, 55, was out for a morning walk, keys in hand, a cross dangling from her key ring. She said she was against abortion but “had a lot of mixed feelings” about the decision.

“I’ve never been in a situation where I had to have an abortion or I had a friend or someone I was very close to give me an abortion, so I struggle with that a lot and I feel for people who were able to be in a situation and it was their only option,” Gilmore said. “Then on the other hand, I’m a follower of Jesus Christ and the word of God is really important in my life , so when he says don’t kill, I really strongly believe in not taking the life of an unborn child. ”

Gilmore said she thinks the divergent positions on abortion, so entrenched, are “tearing the country apart”.

She said she hoped empathy could help heal those wounds. “I think we’d be more at peace if we were willing to understand how bad something could be for someone else,” she said.

Marshall Dixon, 69, was also out for a morning workout. He too described himself as opposed to abortion, but added: “I am for women having the right to choose what they want to do. … I can understand that they want to make their own decision and not let a politician make it.

Due to Mississippi’s 2007 trigger law, abortion will be illegal in the state within 10 days of the Supreme Court ruling. Mississippi’s trigger law allows exceptions if the mother’s life is threatened or if a rape is reported to law enforcement. There is no exception for incest.

Those outside of Mississippi may see a largely red state. After deer fell on Friday, Governor Tate Reeves (R) took to Twitter to celebrate. The The state’s Republican Party sent out fundraising emails with the subject line “Are you pro-life?” selling “I vote pro-life” t-shirts for $37. But while every elected head of state is a Republican and regularly espouses anti-abortion views, on the ground it’s not always as it appears from afar.

More than a decade before Friday Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, Mississippi voters struck down a personality amendment. The 2011 ballot initiative would have defined a fertilized egg as a person. Nearly 60% of Mississippi voters said no.

All through Saturday morning, people prefaced their comments by saying “I’m not for abortion, but”. Sheila Williams, 50, was one of them.

“I’m not for abortions, but I think it’s your choice,” she said. Williams has described herself as a nun and believes abortion is “murder”.

She pleaded with women to “think” before having an abortion. However, she believes it is a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body, not that of the government or any religion.

“I am saved, sanctified on the field of the Holy Spirit,” she says. “I still believe that if you have the right to bear arms, a woman should have the choice of her own body. Why should it be the government’s choice? I believe it’s between you and your God. C It’s your choice. I can’t impose my religion on you.

In parks and grocery stores, many Mississippians expressed a similar nuance.

Linda Hill and Faye Hudson were playing tennis with friends in nearby Flowood. With abortion illegal in some parts of the country and soon to be illegal in Mississippi, Hill said, “I think our God is happy.” A great-grandmother, Hudson, 78, said she firmly believed abortion was murder, adding that “babies are so precious”.

Hill, 71, said she too sees abortion as murder, believing that “innocent children, babies, have no voice”.

However, she is “on the fence” on rape and incest cases. “If it was me personally and I had been raped, I think it would probably affect my mental health having to carry my rapist’s child, so I’m not sure,” she said. “I would encourage them to [continue the pregnancy]but I would give them an option, I think.

In the parking lot of a grocery store in Ridgeland, Carol Brewer, 80, said while she doesn’t agree with abortion, she knows people who have been raped and have had abortions. Everyone, she says, deserves this option. “It’s their decision,” she said. “Making all these laws and then changing them, I think is bullshit.”

Nearby, Ayrinn Kelly mentioned her faith when explaining why she opposes abortion. However, she said she also believed in free will and questioned the government’s overreach.

“If the government controls our rights, our free will, then is it really a democracy? Kelly asked. “At the end of the day, we are given free will. It is our right to have rights; should they be removed? No, I don’t think they should.

Kelly, 42, of Madison, said she opposes abortion as a means of birth control but thinks there should be exceptions.

“I’m a Christian, so I see it as every life is a planned life. However, I am also on the fence about a case of incest. Does this baby really need to be delivered? Kelly asked. “If a woman is going to lose her life having this child, is that really the best option? So that’s where I’m on the fence. But as a form of birth control, I don’t believe in it. …I think it’s on a case-by-case basis.

Helen Wetherbee was heading to market with her husband. The Boston native has lived in Mississippi for 30 years. Behind her sunglasses, she was visibly angry at the decision.

“Number one, I believe in choice” said Wetherbee. “Second, I think it means a lot of women are either going to have children they can’t afford and can’t raise, or be seriously injured or killed trying to get abortions any other way. I don’t understand why. the government insists that we have the babies but does nothing to feed, educate or raise them.

Wetherbee, 80, said he accompanied a friend to have an abortion when she was at university.

“It turned out to be a decent place, she got what she needed, but it’s ugly; it puts you to shame,” she said. “It was hell.”

Back at Madison’s Strawberry Patch Park, 34-year-old Ben Graves played with his two daughters, ages 3 and 5.

Citing his work schedule, Graves said he had no time to think about Friday’s decision, but said: “My wife is upset. Most women are.

“I don’t know what to think,” he said. “I’m not for abortion, obviously, but I understand where it’s coming from, and there are circumstances where it may be necessary.”

Graves noted that Mississippi is in the Bible Belt, so naturally there are people in the state who are strongly opposed to abortion. He said he believed the majority of the state felt that way – then he paused before adding, “A lot of my friends’ wives were upset.”

Sarah Fowler is a freelance journalist based in Jackson, Miss.


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