Photo Essay: Anti-Abortion Activists Collide with Clinic Workers at Mississippi’s Last Abortion Clinic

Photos by Ashton Pittman. Hover for captions.

This photo essay is the result of several months of photo documentation in Jackson, Mississippi at the state’s last abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. My goal in producing this essay was to tell the story of the daily conflict that takes place between the sidewalk, the parking lot, and the front door of the clinic. Women who arrive seking services are often met by jeers, preaching, and even singing from pro-life protestors who patrol the sidewalks, waiting for the chance to dissuade women from going through with their planned abortions. Police cars, videographers and photojournalists (like me) are a common sight outside of the clinic. While a fence alongside the front of the clinic helps the women who come here avoid some of the protesters, volunteer ‘clinic escorts’ are also available to help women make their way from the parking lot to the clinic entrance without incident

I began this endeavor in January 2013, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide. From January through April, a flurry of activity surrounded the clinic, including the “40 Days for Life” event held by protestors nationwide during the Lent season, during which pro-life activists vowed to keep protestors at clinics nationwide for all 40 days (not a problem for the JWHO opponents). Then, of course, there was the question of whether or not Gov. Phil Bryant’s TRAP (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers) law would result in the clinic being shut down once and for all. A ruling at the conclusion of this photo essay in April 2013 blocked the law, and a series of subsequent legal challenges confirmed that initial ruling; eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court would refuse to consider the state’s case, culminating in the law’s final legal rejection by a federal court in Mississippi in March 2017.

This photo essay is a glimpse into just three months in 2013 of the legal, social, and political turmoil that Mississippi’s last abortion clinic is forever engulfed in.

To emphasize the story of the contrasting worlds that occupy either side of the fence at JWHO, these photos were shot on Kodak TMax 400 35mm black and white film.