This Clinic Is A Refuge

By Laurie Bertram Roberts

She could barely stand she was so sick that day. Every step seemed to take so much effort just for her to get to the door of the clinic. As we walked with her and her family we heard bits and pieces of her story. She wanted to be pregnant. This pregnancy was toxic for her and it showed in her face and her movements. She had went to 3 doctors only to be told they couldn’t help her. So here she was. We walked, she walked, and the street harassers yelled at her and her family as if they knew about her and her life. She owed no one an explanation. We listened, to her and her family. We talked, to her. For that woman on that day the #Pinkhouse, as we affectionately call Jackson Women’s Health Organization was a place of refuge.

Since the JWHO clinic defenders started in January we have walked with hundreds of women. Women of various ages, income levels, and races/ethnicities. Each had a story, each had a reason to be there that was her own. No one reason was more valid than the other. For each one the last abortion provider housed in the bright pink building on a hill was a place of refuge. Yes, I said a place of refuge just as defined by the dictionary- a noun- “a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble”.

Operation Save America/Operation Rescue, I mean Operation Oppress, is coming to town next week as part of their “States of Refuge” tour. It is odd that an organization that employs terrorists and spends it’s time going around the country harassing patients and trying to intimidate abortion providers would talk about providing refuge to anyone.

It is clear that in their minds they believe that they know what’s best for the women of Mississippi. Only they can provide them the “help” they need. Only they have the spiritual guidance we need. We choose to TRUST MISSISSIPPI WOMEN! We will continue to support the doctors and staff of the clinic who put their lives at risk to provide a safe and legal medical procedure. If or when the time comes that a woman in Mississippi or the surrounding area needs abortion care JWHO and it’s supporters will be here. The clinic is A PLACE OF REFUGE and it will continue to stand as a bright pink beacon of reproductive freedom.

Please join us Nov.1-6th as we show our support for OUR state’s last abortion provider. Clinic eventIf you can’t come in person please consider making a donation either at  the address below or Mississippi NOW’s reproductive freedom fund via Paypal (put in the memo what you want the money to go for clinic defense or abortion funding).  I urge you to support the local people who are on the ground doing the work here in MISSISSIPPI everyday! Thank you!
Donations can be sent directly to
Jackson Women’s Health Organization,
2903 N State St, Jackson, MS 39216
in the memo: Escort activities/events

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Patient post-J.R.’s Abortion Story

This is the first in a series of posts we will be doing featuring the words of patients, friends and family members who have had experiences at JWHO. For obvious reasons many women want to remain anonymous when they share their stories. J.R. had her procedure at JWHO in 2006 she reports she received excellent, caring care at the clinic. This is her story in her words

“I attended my first abortion rally when the Abortion Rights Freedom Riders came through Mississippi in August of 2013. I used to lean towards Pro-Life as a young adult but also leaned towards the belief that when it came down to it, it was a woman’s choice. My story has experienced both sides of the coin. As a young 21 year old I became pregnant. I lived at home with my parents and the guy I was dating was a good guy, but it wasn’t working. He was in love with someone else. He tried to make it work, but around my 7th month it all pretty much fell apart.

I struggled with the idea of being a single mom, how would I make it, what man will want me with a kid, all the preconceived notions that a young person has and all the fear that comes with it. I already felt so ashamed for my family who were and are your typical loving church going Christians. They loved and supported me but we didn’t “flaunt” the fact that I was pregnant. I had no baby shower, there was no “happiness” in this situation.

I worked two jobs to pay off the debt I had at the time and prepared for my life changing event. We discovered my baby had deformities, she would be ok but she was going to need surgeries. This was disheartening but we were all ok. I wept for her, I wept for me, I wept for the burden I felt we would be on my family. During a weekly dr’s visit, 2 weeks away from my due date, to listen for her heartbeat-they could not find the heartbeat. The dr took me into his office and began to tell me what I couldn’t believe I was hearing. He wanted me to come back the next day and they would do one more ultrasound to try to find the heartbeat and if it wasn’t there I would be admitted into the hospital to induce labor.

I got into my mother’s car and broke down. I was heartbroken that all of a sudden, this baby that was unexpected that was going to need so much care, that was going to change my life forever was dead. All of a sudden all the “worries” that I had had over being a single mom were gone and I was left being a mom in grief. How could I not want something so bad and be so sad over it when I was terrified of what was to come? I called the father of the baby, he came to me just as upset. He stayed with me that night. Then went with me the next day to not hear the heart beat.

We went to the hospital and they prepared me to give birth to my dead daughter. I held her, I loved her, I buried her. I mourned a long time for her. I blamed myself for so many things. Things I could have done differently, things I could not go back and change. I promised her I would make something out of my life and make her proud.

Fast forward 8 years, I was now 29 living on my own with a good job. Everything was going pretty well for me except my love life. I was dating a guy and we had been together for a couple years but my heart wasn’t in it. I was about to end it at any moment, I had just not worked up the nerve to do it. Then one day it happened, I found out that I was pregnant.

No! Not again! How could I have let this happen again?! I felt anger at myself because I should have known better. Did I not learn everything I needed to know through my tragic experience? I did not want to spend the rest of my life with this person and I could not put my family though another unexpected unwanted pregnancy. I just said over and over and over to myself….I can’t do this….I can’t do this. I was racked with anger, guilt, grief, remorse and sadness because obviously I had not lived up to the promise I had made to my daughter. I was barely making it pay check to pay check. I could not do it. The time wasn’t right. The man wasn’t right. I couldn’t go through another possible difficult pregnancy, not with someone I wasn’t in love with. I just couldn’t.

So I made my decision. I went to the clinic and I made arrangements to have my abortion. I told no one but one friend that went with me. I walked inside those doors alone. I sat in the waiting room alone. I went home after it was over alone. I punished myself with my own guilt. It was not an easy choice to make but it was my choice to make. Contrary to what the anti’s like to think we do not make these choices lightly. We do not use abortions as birth control or an excuse to be a loose woman. We struggle. We hope. We believe. We choose. Now I am married to the love of my life, I could not be any happier and as far as kids…..well, we’ll see where our love takes us.”

We thank her for having the courage to share her story!

The Singing. Oh My God, The Singing.

Cal Zastrow was a fixture at the clinic when I first began escorting. From what I know of him (little FB research and other stuff) he is a traveling “preacher” who brings his children around the country to “preach” in front of abortion clinics. He was there almost every single morning at the JWHO this late winter/spring–he and his children. His children dress very modestly and we affectionately refer to some of the rest of his “crowd” as the “Children of the Corn”. Mainly because they all wear those creepy wide-brimmed straw hats. We could get a little more creative but that came out one day and stuck.

Cal uses a microphone to “street preach”. But really, the worst part is when he starts to sing hymns over the personal PA system. We have to turn on the music you hear in the background to drown him out. We’ve been told we could get him on a noise ordinance, but because of the music that we have to play in order to drown him out, we’d get in trouble as well. So, it begets a vicious circle of chaotic sound that surround a patient from the time they leave their car until they are called into the back of the clinic (you can still hear all of this in the waiting room). Another reason we all wear earbuds. The first time I showed my husband some footage of the sound level on a regular morning he was incredulous. As well we should all be. I think most of us get used to it really quickly.

There is one table and chairs outside on the patio for escorts and patients to rest or smoke–depending on their mood. This video was taken as I was sitting at the table and Cal started to sing. I walked along the fence and put my camera around the gate. You will notice the gate in the pictures is covered with tarps and signs (they lovingly refer to this gate as “The Gate To Hell”). We do this to protect the patients. But, because of regulations, these tarps and signs go up every morning and come down every night. We spend approximately forty-five minutes of every morning threading signs back through iron railings and using tie-downs to get the others in place. James Parker, our FABULOUS male escort, even tried to devise a system of white placards on boards to place along the fence line to block out the ability of antis to scream over it, but we were ultimately told they couldn’t be used. The signs and tarps are the best thing we’ve found yet. And, as totally low tech as it is, that radio saves us from listening to THIS all day long. One thing I would like for everyone to notice is the fact that everyone films every other person ALL DAY LONG. They film so they can PR the heck out of any slight they receive and it can be put out as them being “persecuted Christians”. If they get arrested for actually breaking a law, they will tape their arrest, post it to pro-life websites and state it wasn’t justified (Basil was taping Laurie with his phone in the “Aggravating Women for at Least Fifty Years” post. He was attempting to trap her into stating it was an “anti-Christian organization”) We tape everything due to very real fear of assault. But, one thing we always know, we are being filmed.

(sorry about the white earbud string in the video. But, once again, EAR BUDS! We should get stock in them)