An act of vandalism at Mississippi’s last abortion clinic will not intimidate clinic workers from providing reproductive health care to women in need, clinic staff said Tuesday.
The Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO), nicknamed the Pink House, was vandalized late Sunday night, as an unidentified person destroyed some of the clinic’s security cameras and a generator. Footage was captured of a person on the clinic property before the security cameras were destroyed.
An account of the incident was posted on the clinic’s website. The account reported that a “masked intruder” came onto the the clinic property and “proceeded to methodically destroy” the security cameras and attempted to “destroy the power lines coming into the building.”
The clinic’s director, Shannon Brewer, said in a statement to The Rachel Maddow Show, “We’re going to be here. We’re not going anywhere. We’re insisting that from this day until the end of this, we’re going to be here.”
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Stephanie Battle, an ultrasound tech at JWHO, was the first person to arrive at the clinic Monday morning and discovered the vandalism. Battle told Rewire that she was nervous and scared upon finding the damage, and the experience put her on edge for the rest of the day.
Battle said the incident did not discourage her or others at the clinic, but rather brought them together—a sentiment that was expressed by others who spoke to Rewire.
“Even though I was terrified yesterday morning, I’m here at work today,” Battle said.
Michelle Colon, an escort at the clinic, told Rewire that her emotional reaction was not fear, but anger. “I felt violated,” Colon said. “How dare they come here and destroy our property with the intent to close us down?”
Colon said clinic staff reacted quickly to report the vandalism to law enforcement, and to ensure that the clinic would still be able to provide services to patients.
Dr. Willie Parker, a physician who provides abortion care at JWHO, told Rewire that after learning of the incident he spoke with the owner of the clinic, Diane Derzis, about the vandalism. “My first emotion was relief that no one working at the clinic was harmed in any way,” he said. “But my second emotion was one of exasperation at the cowardice and the uncivil engagement.”
“People are always more important than property, but we have a process in the country for dissent. It does not involve the harm of people or property,” he said. “That these people feel validated or right about what they’re doing, that it justifies anything that they decide to do, is very unsettling.”
The clinic has been the site of regular protests by radical anti-choice groups, including Operation Save America (OSA) and Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust.
Last year members of OSA were in Mississippi to face criminal charges from an arrest that occurred while they were protesting outside JWHO. Three of four people facing charges were found guilty by a Jackson Municipal Court judge; one person’s charges were dropped.
OSA announced on its website in February plans to protest the “infamous ‘Pink House’ death camp” as part of an organized effort by several anti-choice groups to “create a wave after wave impact” on JWHO.
There has been no acknowledgement of this week’s incident on either group’s website or social media accounts.
The incident has not yet been linked to any group or individual.
The JWHO vandalism comes after a reporter earlier this year found that threats of harassment, intimidation, and violence against abortion providers have doubled since 2010. Reproductive rights advocates have raised concerns that radical anti-choice activists have been emboldened by a wave of legislative attacks on reproductive rights.
The JWHO has also come under legislative attack: Lawmakers in the state have passed several pieces of legislation targeting the clinic. Gov. Phil Bryant (R) has declared that his goal is to “end abortion” in Mississippi.
A federal appeals court ruled last year that a state law requiring doctors who perform abortions in the state to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital is unconstitutional. Attorneys for the state in February requested that the U.S. Supreme Court overturn that ruling.