Why I Am Here When The Doors Are Open

By: Derenda Hancock

I’m Derenda Hancock and I’m a volunteer escort at JWHO. I’m not a “convert”, always been pro-choice. I was that incredibly lucky 13 year old that had an awesome cousin, 6 years my senior, named Linda. She never treated me like a child and explained the REAL facts of life to me. That included the battle that women were fighting at the time to legally have the choice to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, an abortion. She took me to my first protest at the Oklahoma capitol shortly before Roe vs Wade became law. Thanks to Linda, I started out on the right path.

Unfortunately, by 21, I became your typical “corporate workaholic zombie” and misplaced my activism gene. I paid my dues to NARAL, NOW, and the Democratic Party and figured I was doing my part. We are so good at justifying our inaction. A couple of years ago, having grown restless with the “system”, I joined the Occupy movement and that activist gene reemerged. The deterioration of our society, the injustice, the inequality…made my boots again hit the ground.

On January 22nd 2013, I attended a rally at JWHO to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Roe VS Wade. It was a great rally with a large group of pro-choice supporters. But, I am ashamed to say, it was the first time in over 30 years that I had been exposed to the hate spewing pro-life zealots. Though shocked by their behavior, I was mostly angry.

You see, I am the one in that one in three women that you will know in your lifetime that has had an abortion. To be perfectly honest, I’ve had two abortions. Once, the birth control failed. Once, I failed the birth control. I am also that rare woman who has never wanted children. (No, I didn’t misplace that gene, I was born without it. Lol!) In the last year, I have heard stories of how women have struggled with the decision to terminate their pregnancy. Though I empathize with their struggle, that was not the case for me. In both cases, the day I learned I was pregnant I made an appointment to abort. My views on children were “public information”, thus I did not feel compelled to discuss or justify my decision to anyone. It was and is MY BODY MY CHOICE. Only now do I realize how lucky I was that there were no protesters at either clinic. Of course they wouldn’t have changed my mind, but I might have ended up in jail. That was 26 and 17 years ago respectively.

The Antis say: “You will always regret this decision.” I’ve never had a single regret, I did what was right for me. They say “You will suffer mental trauma and you will never be the same again.” I haven’t experienced an ounce of trauma. No, I will never be the same…I’m better! I took control of my life. I alone dictated my future and that’s empowering. But, had it not been for Roe vs Wade, I might have possibly had no future. There was no way my body was going to bear a child and I would have resorted to any means necessary, including a back alley abortion, to insure it. The availability of a safe, legal abortion is why I’m here today. Otherwise, who knows?

So, on that January day a year ago, I watched the sideshow of Anti freaks parading back and forth on the sidewalk. I listened as they spat out their propaganda. There were no patients at the clinic that day, but I kept thinking how horrible that women are subjected to this atrocious behavior. It’s bad enough, thanks to our state legislators, that they have to wait 24 hours to have the procedure, then endure this harassment all the way to the clinic door? It’s all just so wrong. Gheeze, couldn’t somebody make them stop?

But at the end of that day, a little ray of sunshine peaked through the clouds. There was talk of forming an escort group. Volunteers would receive some training and would walk women from their cars to the clinic door. Though it wouldn’t fix the problem, it would be a start. And it’s always nice to see a smiling face that you know is “on your side.” The clinic owner, Diane Derzis and clinic manager, Shannon Russell, who I have since learned are two of the most wonderful women in the world, gave us their “blessing”. Laurie Roberts took the lead in getting us together and within a week the JWHO Volunteer Escorts went into action. Yep, we were a “rag tag” bunch at the start, but we were there and doing our best. I’m going to leave it to one of the other escorts to explain our evolution, but we’ve come a long way baby. The year has gone by quickly, but the smiles and the “thank you’s” that we get from the patients hang on forever. I love my “not a job” and am so grateful to be a part of the Pinkhouse Crew! Happy Anniversary Roe V Wade!


a powerful project.

The gaunlet at JWHO can be daunting for patients but I must say of the 5 clinics I have been to in my life I have never seen anything like this. It is a reminder that this struggle is not just about us!

Louisville Clinic Escorts

from a guest blogger…

I have not escorted lately. I have been in school and I have been completely wiped. However, the clinic has not been wiped from my mind, and all but one of my English papers was about some aspect of Choice in Kentucky. My last project was supposed to be a remix of one of those papers. I had written about the protestors and how they are a community problem. The protesting at the clinic really is a community problem. It is not just a problem for the women seeking abortions.

These people treat other people like they are less than human. They use intimidation and coercion to influence the behavior of others, which is almost the exact Merriam Webster definition of the word bully in verb form. As a noun, it means  “a blustering, browbeating person; especially one who is habitually cruel to others.”  It seems…

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New Documentary Features Abortion Fight In MS And TX

The new documentary short Roe At Risk made as part of the group Alliance for Justice First Monday film project discusses the current state of emergency around reproductive rights and features activists in Mississippi and Texas as well as national leaders. There are interviews with JWHO clinic director Shannon Brewer, Provider Dr. Willie Parker and several clinic escorts can be seen in the footage. If you want to help support the clinic you can learn more about how to do that here or join us as for events Nov. 1-6.

A Family Aborted

Another great post from David Gunn Jr about the impact of anti choice terrorism on his family- Thank you David!

Abortion - Abortion Clinics, Abortion Pill, Abortion Information

Sudden violent death creates concentric ripples which spread ever wider washing and crashing over the immediate family on to extended family, friends, and colleagues. Those ripples ebb back to the deceased’s family. Sometimes, what rolls back is sympathy and genuine compassion. In other instances, a dangerous rip tide threatens to pull the family back into gothic familial deep water where the recently aggrieved find themselves struggling to maintain their footing and keep from drowning in those passive aggressive human voices whose motives are more self-centered than benevolent, more angry than comforting.

The men from my dad’s side of the family met each Thanksgiving weekend at a hunting cabin in Pickens County, Alabama. It is in actuality an old farm house adjacent to the Tom Bigbee River surrounded by grazing land for cattle and a combination of pulp and hard wood trees unique to the south. What started as a weekend…

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Saturday on the Sidewalk

Louisville Clinic Escorts

Eighty protesters this week.  Most of the regulars were there, and about 25 extras from Kentucky Mountain Bible College.     The Bible college folks broke into two groups.  Half of them  stayed down at the end of the gauntlet, where one dark haired woman in particular pleaded with clients, companions and escorts alike to “please read this, just read this, please,” thrusting the pamphlet at us as we passed by.

The other half of the Bible College folks lined up in front of AWC, the anti-clinic next door to the abortion clinic.  That positions them right where the clients will see them if they come that way rather than walking the gauntlet.  This group of antis also sang, mostly Amazing Grace, which makes it a challenge for some of us not to sing along.

The best part of the Mountain College people being there is at the end when they line up…

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Ways You Can Help Us

by Laurie Bertram Roberts

Wednesday September 25th was the kickoff of the anti choicers 40 days for life campaign.  I like to call it 40 days of judging and shaming women or 40 days of lies. This is a great time for people to show how much they support the last remaining independent abortion provider in Mississippi.

People frequently ask us how they can help the escorts do what what we do at the clinic so here is a list of things we could use to make our job easier. Of course we always take good old fashion money our paypal account is accessed using mississippiNOWprez@gmail.com if you donate via paypal please specify whether you want your donation to go for abortion funding or clinic defense (donations are being handled by the Mississippi chapter of NOW and ALL funds donated go to clinic defense or abortion funding NOT other chapter activities).

Just to make things interesting we will be tweeting a count of the protesters at the clinic on the days we are there so you and your friends can pledge to send a dollar or fifty cents for every protester that we have during the largest protest day. Your help is needed and appreciated.

If you are in our area and/or have these items please contact us.

external hard drive or large flash drive

hand held digital camcorder

16 or 32 GB memory cards for cameras (for legal observing)

Umbrellas (the big sturdy kind)

rain ponchos (big ones and  smaller ones)


C batteries


We are always in need of cases of water we use A LOT of water!

If you post messages of thanks and support for the doctors and staff we will be sure they get them.

We greatly thank all of you for your support.

An Open Letter to Antiabortion Protesters

Great piece! Features a pic of JWHO protest regular Cal Zastrow

Abortion - Abortion Clinics, Abortion Pill, Abortion Information

ImageYou are forever talking about what you know is right for women, what women want, and what they really need.   You’ve even told clinic staff, doctors and nurses that youknow they could do better in another line or work. With your particularized notion of moral righteousness, you’ve lodged complaints with police about what you know are your rights to free speech at abortion clinics. You’ve written letters to private citizens, neighbors of doctors and clinic directors, asking them to tell these professionals to find a new job, because you know better, you know what’s right. But your self-obsession as well as your presumptuous omniscience conveniently ignores the rights of others and summarily dismisses the knowledge women have of their own lives. Behaving, as you are wont to do, foolishly believing you are right when you are really wrong on so many levels, you reveal more truths about your…

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Marni does NOT regret her abortion

This is a message we received via Facebook today from a woman named Marni. She wants to share her abortion story. Contrary to what the anti abortion side shouts every woman does not regret their abortion. 1 in 3 women are not the walking wounded. This is what Marni sent us unedited –

“I think the work the escorts do at JWHO is amazing, and following your blog has compelled me to share my own abortion story.

  • Thank you for all the amazing work you do. I don’t live in Mississippi, but if I did I would be a very enthusiastic volunteer escort at JWHO. Keep up it up!

    Marni Switzer (my story is below).

    To the protestors everything is black and white. Either you have the baby, or you don’t. That simple.

    Unfortunately nothing, absolutely nothing in life is black and white.

    This is my story; the story of a healthy 32-year-old woman who decided to terminate her pregnancy.

    You may ask why as a woman in her thirties I chose not to go ahead with the pregnancy and keep the baby, and that is a valid question. There were no health issues with regards to my pregnancy; the fetus probably would have grown into a healthy child, and there were no risks with regards to my own health. There was no trauma associated with the pregnancy; the sex was consensual and with a man I had been dating for some time and cared a great deal for.

    For those who are pro-life, there are no excuses for me having an abortion. But they are only looking at me from the outside, as a vessel for a fetus, and not as a person with my own doubts, fears and feelings of any kind. I am sure that in their imaginations, the baby would have been born into a loving family, cared for and given every opportunity, loved and cherished, and lived a wonderful life. That is all they see. They do not consider the fact that I simply could not afford to raise a child. I have a hard enough time making ends meet and supporting myself – feeding myself, paying rent, putting clothes on my back. I have worked hard to maintain a life that I want for myself, to work a job that doesn’t pay much but is fulfilling to me in ways that money could never compare to. I love my work as a writer, but financially there is no way I would be able to support a child through the first year of life, let alone all the years that follow. I would not have been able to buy diapers for my child, or formula, and if I did it would be at the sacrifice of keeping myself fed and healthy. I would literally have been giving up my own life for that of the child. In the protestors eyes it appears that life of the child is of more value than the life of the person who conceived it. Would they have been there to help me support the child? Would they have been there to look after the child so I could continue to work so I could support both myself and the baby? Would they have raised the funds needed for doctors appointments during my pregnancy and to help pay the hospital bill after I had given birth? Above all this, I would not have been there to see my child grow, because in order to give it any kind of life, I would probably have needed to work more than one job to support not only myself but another person as well. I would never know my child as it would never know me, because in order for it to live I would have to live to work, not work to live.

    I am sure in the protestors heads that every child is born into a happy family. That the father would have played a significant role in the baby’s life I do not know. The relationship was too new, too fresh to contemplate having children. We hadn’t even spoken words of love to each other yet, and hadn’t spoken of our future, whether we would still be together in a week, a month, a year. Having a baby is life-altering, and I was not emotionally ready to make those changes, and nor was I willing to force those changes on another person as well.

    For those against abortion, they would probably claim that it is my own fault that I got pregnant, and that I should have expected to get pregnant after having a night of fun, “unprotected sex”. Would they actually be willing to listen to my situation? Birth control is effective, as are condoms, but nothing comes with a 100% guarantee, and accidents do happen. When our accident occurred, I did not just leave it up to chance, cross my fingers behind my back and hope for the best. The morning after I went to the closest pharmacy and got emergency contraceptive. I took every precaution I possibly could have while still remaining sexually active, and I still got pregnant. Somehow in the intervening hours between sex and emergency contraception, my egg was fertilized. It is not because I am a slut, or because I chose to be stupid. Let me repeat: nothing in life is guaranteed.

    The final argument the pro-lifers would probably make is that I could have carried the pregnancy to term and given the baby up for adoption. I don’t know if a single anti-abortion protestor has ever spoken to someone who has given up a child for adoption. We always hear the stories of how women who have had abortions end up traumatized by their decision and regret it for the rest of their lives. Convenient fodder to use against those of us who have made the decision to terminate our pregnancies. Do they understand how hard it is for someone to give up a child? The grief after placing a child for adoption can be all-encompassing and can lead to feelings of guilt, loss and shame. Sound similar? These are the same feelings that some women can feel post-abortion. The grief is the same, as is the loss. I knew I could not have this baby so I chose an abortion.

    I have no regrets about my decision, nor to I feel any guilt or shame over it. I knew it was the right decision for me, and after all, as it was my life that was about to change, isn’t it right that I made the best decision for me?”

    We thank Marni for sharing her story and for her bravery in standing up to abortion stigma and shaming!