The Pink House
The Pink House is pretty well known to not only residents of Jackson, Mississippi but to neighboring states and activists as well. It is the only abortion clinic left in the entire state and one of the most outspoken abortion providers in the country performs abortions there. As Teddy Wilson reports, states in the south are doing everything they can to restrict access to abortion care even if it means passing unconstitutional laws.
The Pink House has an iron fence separating it’s door from the public sidewalk and the escorts have put signs and tarps up for some privacy. Protesters still stand along the road and sidewalk so they are visible to anyone driving into the very small parking lot or walking up from the street.
Clinic escorts refer to this protester as “Bad Doug”. Derenda, also sometimes called the “Godmother of clinic escorts”, tells me, “There is a ‘good Doug’ and a ‘bad Doug’. Bad Doug stands at the street corner for a while before moving closer to the clinic. Then he moves to the foot of the driveway to try to get cars to stop on their way in. Doug’s wife never joins him.
This group of 7 teens belong to a Christian ballet company named Ballet Magnificat! and do everything from pray silently to dance and beg women not to go in. “We believe that life is sacred and that includes unborn children so we just come out here to pray and to just ask the lord to protect the babies…” says one young woman.
Here, 2 dancers dance in unison on the sidewalk in front of the clinic, while another one sings a hymn. The signs and black tarp are put up by escorts to try to help with privacy.
Richard, a security guard for the clinic, watches as Jamie hands anti-abortion literature that was shoved under the fence, back over to Ryan. Richard has a military background and is armed and wears a bulletproof vest when he works at the clinic. While he is paid staff, clinic escorts across the country are always volunteers.
These women were introduced to “sidewalk counseling” by Ryan whom the woman on the right is related to. The women are good friends and this was their first time protesting at this clinic. They each have two children of the same ages.
Here, one searches a Bible for passages to read aloud while the other wears her infant.
This protester would jog back and forth from the entryway to the end of the fence. Here she can see the door to the clinic and preach at people going in and out. She says, “I was pregnant and scared once too but the Lord blessed me with a beautiful child!”
Her friend, above, gets emotional when I ask her why she decided to come out this day. As her eyes well up, she tells me that people are “killing their babies” and “that’s just not right”.
Above, Buddy Harriston records Ryan as he yells at patients and companions through the fence. Buddy is a Christian and says he is there “representing Christ”. Buddy says ideally he’d come out once a week and has been doing this 3 or 4 years.”We prefer the term ‘counselor’ as to ‘protester’,” he says.
I asked Buddy more about his sign stating, “We will love and adopt your baby”:
“Do you have any connections or friends who works for an adoption agency?”
“Well I know people that have never had the opportunity to seek legal advice but I would love that opportunity.”
I asked him what he would do if a patient decided to come to him for help. He said he would invite her for coffee and would help her figure out “what’s best for her. Of course, the worst thing for her is to kill the baby”.
“What we would love for her to do is to have this baby and be the mother that she is for her own baby. That’s God’s design. But if there’s circumstances where a mother can’t handle that, then we will pursue other options and of course, me taking her baby myself, is certainly an option.”
Buddy explains to me that he believes that the main subject of his message comes from his religion and that of all the tactics, he believes that the message on his sign could be the most influential.
He then proceeds to preach to me and quote parts of the Bible.
Buddy told me that he and his wife have 4 biological children who sometimes accompany him. He tells me that they helped him color his sign.
Here, a woman approaches a vehicle that has to slow to a stop before turning into the clinic’s parking lot because there were so many people in the way. She tries to talk the driver into turning around and pleads with the woman in the passenger seat. The couple has to park down the street and walk up to the clinic where they face more protesters before entering.
“Bad Doug” and another regular protester named Regina, pray together. While trying to photograph her, Regina stands immediately behind me, touching my back, and steps when I step, so that I may not get a photograph of her face. After a couple hours I manage to photograph her anyway.
Derenda begins to tell me about Roy McMillan, a member of the Army of God. The Army of God is a Christian terrorist anti-abortion organization founded in 1982 that encourages and applauds the murdering of abortion providers and anyone else involved in abortion care. They refer to men who have planted bombs, and murdered and kidnapped doctors, as “American heroes”. Their website states:
Derenda tells me about Roy’s history protesting at the clinic. He had a restraining order filed against him by a doctor at the clinic. It was for 150 feet. This wasn’t super helpful because McMillan would just stay away from the clinic and instead, meet and follow patients to and from their cars. Derenda says he is very ill and has been for a while. It was thought that he would not live much longer. Despite her opinion that Regina is harmless, she also knows Regina is close with McMillan’s family and was being informed of his condition.
About 20 minutes later, Regina approaches Derenda and they speak for a few minutes. Derenda then tells me that Regina just got word from McMillan’s sister, that he had died.
Amelie, a clinic escort volunteer, stands off with Ryan as he yells and preaches at those going in and out. Ryan is not allowed on the property but the property line ends at the sidewalk. This allows for the protesters to line the sidewalk and come within 2 yards of visitors.
No matter how far away the patients can get though, it’s never so far that they can not hear the protesters.