Since 2002, Lori Gregory worked at Hope Haven children’s crisis mental health facility in Jackson, Mississippi. But on March 8th – on International Women’s Day – she was fired after her boss learned that she had engaged in pro-choice activism in 2011 and 2012.
Gregory was the Program Director at Hope Haven, a Catholic-run facility that provides free counseling for adolescents who don’t have private health insurance.
“I first crossed paths with Lori in 2011, while we were both fighting to defeat Mississippi’s personhood ballot initiative, Lori with Parents Against Personhood and me with Mississippians for Healthy Families,” wrote Felicia Brown-Williams, the Mississippi State Director for Planned Parenthood Southeast, on a generosity.com donation page she set up for Lori Gregory. “The work to defeat Personhood and her volunteer work for the local abortion clinic is what got Lori fired. Last week. For things that took place in 2011 and 2012.”
The Personhood Amendment was so controversial that many pro-life conservatives voted against it in 2011, resulting in it failing to pass in a state ballot initiative in Mississippi by a vote of 59-41. Opponents feared that it would criminalize, not only abortion, but also in-vitro fertilization, common forms of contraception, and even chemotherapy for pregnant cancer patients.
The communications director for the Catholic diocese of Jackson, Maureen Smith, told The Guardian that Gregory’s activism conflicted with the church’s teachings and suggested it was “hypocritical.”
“I don’t know how you can work for the Catholic Church and be a part of a pro-life ethic and be in conflict with it at the same time,” Smith said. “Why would you do that? If I was walking around saying things against church teachings, that’s hypocritical and that’s problematic.”
The Guardian noted that Gregory’s employer had warned her against pro-choice activism in 2013, when they learned she volunteered as an “escort” at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, where she helped women seeking abortion services avoid protesters as they entered the clinic (see our photo essay on the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, escorts, and protesters here).
As of this writing, 16 donors have raised more than $1,600 for Lori Gregory on generosity.com less than 24 hours after the donation page went live.