Home New mexico united Mississippi’s Last Abortion Clinic Hopes to ‘Help Everyone We Can’ by Relocating to Las Cruces | Local News

Mississippi’s Last Abortion Clinic Hopes to ‘Help Everyone We Can’ by Relocating to Las Cruces | Local News


LAS CRUCES — Shannon Brewer has lived in Mississippi all her life, but when she realized the U.S. Supreme Court was about to upend her life’s work, she didn’t hesitate to swap areas his state’s lush wetlands against a jagged mountain range.

At 50, Brewer worked nearly half her life at what became Mississippi’s last abortion clinic — whose lawsuit against a statewide ban at 15 weeks pregnant prompted the monumental ruling by the United States Supreme Court last week stamping out Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to abortion in the United States. Now his clinic is permanently closing, along with those in Texas and many other states.

As executive director of Jackson Women’s Health, Brewer says she saw the writing on the wall after the high court heard arguments in her clinic’s case. In December, she began looking for other places where she could provide abortion care.

Although a stark contrast politically, geographically, and culturally to Mississippi, New Mexico was the obvious choice. Without hesitation, she made plans to uproot her life in the Land of Enchantment.

“I’m not even puzzled about that,” Brewer said with a dismissive shrug, clicking on her laptop in what will soon be the Las Cruces Women’s Health Clinic. “I raised my kids, they all grew up, and that’s what I did, and that’s what I want to keep doing.”

Brewer’s team chose Las Cruces because of its proximity to Texas and its lack of abortion care. They found an old dentist’s practice in town this spring and hope to open their new clinic next month.

Brewer speaks easily and often, but his mind is never far from his work. In conversation, her gaze often shifts to an alert on her computer screen or a ringing phone. Sometimes she stops speaking mid-sentence to take a note on one of the many post-it notes nearby.

However, her gaze and hands stabilized, as she explained that the saddest part of relocating is that many women in places like Mississippi or Texas won’t be able to travel to New Mexico for an abortion. .

“But I can still help women,” she added. “So the decision actually, it wasn’t hard to make.”

More than half of the country’s states have already or are likely to ban abortion after the High Court ruling, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Immediately after, many poor people in anti-abortion states like Texas cannot safely access procedures or medication. Those who can travel across the country and flood the few clinics in states where abortion is still legal.

The trend is not new, as the number of clinics has been declining across the country for years. After the Texas abortion ban went into effect at about six weeks pregnant in September, Brewer said existing clinics in places like New Mexico, Colorado, Louisiana and hers in Mississippi were flooded with Texas patients.

Prior to September, she said the Jackson clinic was open three days a week and staff often had downtime. Since then, the clinic has been open five days a week and bustling every day.

“It’s a state that has made all the states around them occupied,” she said. “So you multiply that by half of the United States and what do you get? You get disaster.

The shelter

New Mexico — fast becoming an abortion safe haven in Texas and much of the South — is also a poor and largely rural state that often fails to provide adequate reproductive health care to its own residents, including abortions and things like cancer screening.

The state has only three surgical abortion clinics, all in Albuquerque, the most populous city in the northern half of the state. Doña Ana County, home to Las Cruces in the south, has two reproductive health clinics, but they only provide abortion drugs for teenage pregnancies. A clinic advertises on its website that it is only one mile from El Paso.

New Mexico abortion rights advocates have encouraged new providers to come in to help the state deal with the surge in patients. But they urged them not only to perform abortions, largely for out-of-state patients, but also to help New Mexicans with all reproductive health care.

“We hope that any vendor coming to New Mexico will do so with the true long-term needs of the community in mind, said Charlene Bencomo, executive director of Bold Futures, a women’s rights advocacy group and of the peoples of New Mexico. of color.

Brewer said she wants her new clinic to provide services New Mexico needs beyond abortion. She discussed contraception, health checkups, and possibly meetings or instructional classes in the clinic’s basement focused on empowering women.

Brewer already has a condo in Las Cruces, which she at least initially plans to share with two Jackson clinic staff members who are also moving. Describing herself as a workaholic, she said she plans to spend most of her waking life at the clinic. So it doesn’t bother her that black residents like her make up less than 3% of the population in what will become her new state.

Although she will keep a place in Mississippi so she can see her family often, her priorities are to keep fighting for the abortion rights of her daughters and granddaughters.

“As long as they have access to it, they’re able to make a full decision on what they want to do if they need to,” Brewer said.

A new house

On Monday, mementos of the old dentist’s office were visible in racks and x-ray cabinets, but almost every wall of what will be New Mexico’s new abortion clinic was painted in varying shades of color alive and full of hope. Unhung paintings and an eclectic mix of furniture lined the hallways.

Humming a songless tune, Brewer walked through the office, pointing to rooms that would be designated for counseling, abortive drug prescriptions, ultrasounds, lab tests and recovery, as well as a surgery room for abortions. procedural as well as other reproductive health services such as pap smears.

Brewer said she knew the building was right because flash flood ditches, or arroyos, surround both sides of the office and act as physical barriers. She also appreciated that the parking lot and entrance are behind the building, not right next to the street where protesters are likely to congregate.

For 21 years at the Mississippi clinic, she said protesters were always parked, holding up religious signs and shouting at people walking from the parking lot to the building. Brewer expects anti-abortion advocates to soon be outside his building in Las Cruces as well, even though the city and state broadly support abortion rights.

“You have antis that were in these 20 states that are about to shut down – what are they going to do?” she says. “That’s all they know, and that’s all they did.

This week, Brewer was overseeing phone connections and security camera installations and estimating prices and insurance plans. A few doctors who plan to work on rotation at the new clinic are already licensed in New Mexico, and she said a few more who work at the Jackson clinic are awaiting licensure from the New Mexico Medical Board. .

Brewer returned to Mississippi last week to run her existing clinic in its final days. Mississippi’s abortion trigger ban will go into effect 10 days after the state’s attorney general signs the ruling, which was released Monday.

After ironing out the final details, like suggesting alternatives to patients who regularly visited for birth control, Brewer would pack up and move to New Mexico.

“It’s going to be weird,” she admitted, twirling her hair between her purple fingernails. “The whole time I was doing this thing in New Mexico, I didn’t really think about it personally as far as Jackson’s clinic was concerned. Because I focused on the sequel, the sequel, the sequel.

“My plans are just to stay open so I can help everyone we can.”

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