Health

Masked Intruder Allegedly Methodically Destroyed Cameras At Mississippi’s Last Abortion Clinic

CREDIT: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Abortion opponents conduct a prayer service on the sidewalk in front of the Jackson Women's Health Organization Clinic. the only facility in Mississippi that provides abortions.

The only abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi was allegedly vandalized on Sunday night, which has raised alarm among reproductive rights supporters in the area. Staff members woke up to find evidence that security cameras had been smashed and electrical wires had been tampered with.

According to a website maintained by the staff at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the group that operates the clinic, they realized the building had been vandalized when they showed up on Monday morning. There appeared to be damage outside the clinic, and they could hear the alarm going off inside.

“A review of our DVR showed that in the early hours of the morning, a masked intruder came onto our property and proceeded to methodically destroy our cameras,” a post on the website states. “Other damage found indicates they were trying to destroy the power lines coming into the building, no doubt hoping to stop all patient care for the near future.”

The director of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Shannon Brewer, told Rachel Maddow that the clinic has recently been targeted by members of the anti-choice groups Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust and Operation Save America. Those organizations are infamous for their extreme acts of protest against abortion doctors’ workplaces and private residences.

The clinic staff aren’t sure if the recent protests are connected to the act of vandalism. But they plan to keep watch on the building’s premises 24 hours a day until the groups leave Jackson, according to Brewer. “We’re going to be here. We’re not going anywhere,” she said in a statement provided to MSNBC.

For the past several years, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization has been fighting to keep Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic open amid increasing hurdles. Gov. Phil Bryant (R) has been explicit about the fact that he wants to end abortion in his state, and the GOP-controlled legislature has imposed burdensome restrictions on abortion providers that are explicitly designed to drive the clinic out of business.

Thanks to several court rulings that have prevented Mississippi from enforcing its harsh laws, the clinic has been hanging on. And its staff has been defiant in the face of the legislative battle: Two years ago, they painted the building bright pink to send a message to lawmakers that their abortion services aren’t going anywhere. The clinic has since become known simply as the “Pink House.”

“We will always do whatever it takes to make sure our doors open every single Monday morning,” the staff wrote on the website affiliated with the clinic. “The Pink House is your house.”

It’s not unusual for the people who work at abortion clinics to face harassment, threats, or acts of vandalism. Last year, for instance, an abortion clinic in Montana was forced to close after an anti-choice activist broke in to the building and destroyed nearly everything inside — breaking its furniture and equipment, shredding its documents, and smashing its glass. The clinic still hasn’t been able to re-open, and the abortion provider has been unable to find another building to rent; her future in Montana is uncertain.

Across the country, the level of threats and intimidation aimed at doctors who provide abortion services has been on the rise, according to a recent survey from the Feminist Majority Foundation. Outside of incidents at clinics, there’s also been an uptick in stalking, as anti-choice activists are increasingly publishing the private addresses of abortion doctors on the internet.