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Mississippi’s last abortion clinic may move to New Mexico if Roe is overturned

Shannon Brewer, director of the Jackson Women's Health Organization, sits in her office on May 19, 2021. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

Mississippi’s last abortion clinic, the one at the center of the Supreme Court case that could strike down Roe v. Wade, is prepared to move to New Mexico if the landmark 1973 ruling is overturned this summer, according to the clinic’s director.

Shortly after a published draft of a Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the landmark abortion ruling reverberated across the country, Shannon Brewer, the director of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, told The Washington Post that Mississippi’s only clinic would move to New Mexico if it is forced to close or reduce its services.

“We have been strategizing on several things since the Supreme Court hearing last year, and we decided to look at places where abortion is protected,” she said on Wednesday. “New Mexico is where we decided to open a new facility.”

The clinic, known as “Pink House,” is named in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a challenge to Mississippi’s law banning most abortions after 15 weeks. The draft opinion of the case, first reported by Politico, said that Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., along with Justice Clarence Thomas and all of three of President Donald Trump’s nominees to the court — Justices Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — had already decided to overturn the precedent set in Roe. The draft opinion was confirmed as legitimate by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who clarified in a statement that the document “does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.”

But the report, and the disruption it has caused in the nation’s political landscape, has led Jackson Women’s Health to potentially look west for its future.

“We’re planning on the clinic in New Mexico to be open before the ruling comes down,” she told The Post. “We’re actually trying to have it open by the next month.”

She declined to say where in New Mexico the clinic will be located.

Brewer added, “It was a surprise for many people, but we kind of anticipated this would happen. When we saw the opinion, it was kind of like, ‘Here we go.’ This is what we were talking about.”

NBC News was the first to report the story.

As protesters from Washington to Los Angeles have demonstrated in response to federal abortion rights being possibly overturned, abortion clinics in Republican-led states are scrambling to prepare for an imminent future in which the procedure would become illegal. Some providers have acknowledged they “don’t have a plan” if abortion is illegal in many states in a matter of weeks.

Draft opinion jolts abortion clinics, lawmakers to prepare for end of Roe

Trigger bans are already in place in 13 states, which would almost immediately outlaw most abortions within their borders if Roe is overturned. Among those states is Texas, which bans the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy. More than a dozen more GOP-led states are poised to severely restrict the procedure. One particularly significant version of this law passed the legislature in Oklahoma, where a wide-reaching abortion ban will still take effect, even if Roe is not completely overturned.

Mississippi’s history as one of the most difficult places to obtain an abortion is well documented. Restrictions passed by the state over time have dwindled the number of available Mississippi providers down to just Jackson Women’s Health.

Reproductive health advocates have argued the laws in Mississippi have disproportionately affected poor people of color. Nearly three-quarters of the pregnant people getting abortions in Mississippi are Black, according to federal data released in November 2020. About 38 percent of Mississippi’s population is Black.

How Mississippi ended up with one abortion clinic and why it matters

Jackson Women’s Health’s potential move to New Mexico shows the lengths to which Democratic-led states have gone in anticipation of Roe possibly being struck down.

Sixteen states and D.C. have laws that protect the right to an abortion, either before a fetus’s viability or throughout a pregnancy, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research center based in New York and Washington that supports abortion rights.

Even if Roe is struck down, abortion will remain legal in New Mexico. Last year, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed into law a bill that struck down the state’s abortion law from 1969, which banned the procedure except in the cases of rape, incest or if it was needed to save a pregnant person’s life.

In response to the Supreme Court draft opinion, Lujan Grisham said in a statement that the news was “catastrophic and will have consequences that will negatively impact generations,” noting the prospect was why she signed the measure striking down the old abortion law.

“The threat of the Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade is precisely why we repealed New Mexico’s criminal abortion ban, ensuring that New Mexico women have access to safe, high-quality, and legal reproductive care regardless of the Court’s devastating decision,” the governor said Tuesday. “It’s clear today that the action we’ve taken to protect and expand abortion rights in New Mexico is more important than ever. New Mexico will continue to be a state that protects and preserves the rights of women and their families to make their own decisions about health care.”

Brewer told The Post that the clinic would move forward, even if its days in Mississippi could be coming to an end, by giving patients treatment and referring them to other providers hours away. She said the staff at Jackson Women’s Health are continuing to offer support and services to patients, many of whom are already parents and living in poverty.

“We’ve had a few calls to see if we were definitely closing, but patients haven’t asked about it too much yet,” she said. “I guess they’re glad they have a chance to get in before this [ruling] comes down.”

Toward the end of the interview, Brewer reflected on what she would tell the conservative Supreme Court judges who are poised to overturn Roe if the draft opinion becomes reality. She sighed and noted how Americans “rely” on the Supreme Court to “hold precedent” when issues like this one are presented.

“I think they have failed,” she said. “I think they have failed women and America.”

Ariana Eunjung Cha, Caroline Kitchener, Rachel Roubein and Emily Wax-Thibodeaux contributed to this report.

Roe v. Wade and abortion access in America

Roe v. Wade overturned: The Supreme Court has struck down Roe v. Wade, which for nearly 50 years has protected the right to abortion. Read the full decision here.

What happens next?: The legality of abortion will be left to individual states. That likely will mean 52 percent of women of childbearing age would face new abortion limits. Thirteen states with “trigger bans” will ban abortion within 30 days. Several other states where recent antiabortion legislation has been blocked by the courts are expected to act next.

State legislation: As Republican-led states move to restrict abortion, The Post is tracking legislation across the country on 15-week bans, Texas-style bans, trigger laws and abortion pill bans, as well as Democratic-dominated states that are moving to protect abortion rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade.

How our readers feel: In the hours that followed the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Washington Post readers responded in droves to a callout asking how they felt — and why.

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