Really, Really Bad News Out of Mississippi

Posted on 6.26.2012 by Lily

So Mississippi’s only abortion clinic is being threatened yet again. Except this time they may actually have to shut their doors. Did I mention it’s the ONLY clinic in the great state of Mississippi? Yeah.

I’m a born ‘n’ raised New Englander, which means I have a vague sense of the rest of the country with Florida below us and California over on the other side and Texas near Mexico, and a whole mess of states in the middle. Growing up in New England means my sense of distance is, well, relative. I have lived and worked in abortion clinics in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, which needless to say, are very small states that can be crossed in a matter of hours. Or less than one hour, in Lil Rhody’s case. My family would periodically go to New York City, which took about 3-4 hours depending on traffic. Sometimes we would take the really dreadfully long drive to Philadelphia - about 6 hours.

The point is, in the Northeast, everything is pretty close.

And New England’s got a few abortion clinics to boot. The situation facing patients seeking abortions in New England is not great - because it’s not exactly great in this country, period - but I'm willing to bet it’s a whole hell of a lot better here than in much of the rest of the country, save California and a handful of other, probably mostly Northeastern states. (Forgive my Northeastern-blinded ignorance of the rest of the country.) I’d like to compare the situation in my beloved New England to the situation facing millions of patients in the rest of the country - especially, as is timely right now, in Mississippi.

In Connecticut, where I currently live and work, there are 18 Planned Parenthood centers. Almost all (except three) offer abortion services. Of those, most provide only the medical (pill) abortion and four sites - fairly spread-out throughout the state - also provide surgical abortion up to 15 weeks 6 days. There are also several privately-owned clinics in the Hartford area and in southwestern Connecticut, one of which provides services up to 21 weeks and 6 days. (To find a Planned Parenthood anywhere in the country, just find your state on the right-hand side of their website and a list with all the centers and services offered at each one will come up.)

Massachusetts boasts seven Planned Parenthoods, three of which offer abortion services. There are also five privately-owned abortion clinics (four of which have a single owner), though these five are centered around the Boston area. They differ in their gestational offerings, but generally provide services up to 18 weeks 6 days or 20 weeks 6 days. Women on Cape Cod have no abortion clinic and must travel a distance to reach one. The abortion clinic furthest west (a Planned Parenthood) is in Springfield, which is only really a little west of the center of Massachusetts. Women who live in far western Mass have a ways to travel to reach a clinic (or possibly can go to upstate New York).

Little old Rhode Island has two abortion clinics, a Planned Parenthood and a private clinic. Both, somewhat unfortunately, are clustered in the Providence area, which is in the northeastern part of the itsy bitsy state. Women who live by the southern coast have to travel about an hour to reach either clinic. But, as I’ve already said, that’s about as far as you need to travel to get anywhere within RI, or to reach another state.

I don’t know as much about the situation in New Hampshire, Vermont, or Maine, which round out New England, but some quick research shows that Maine has, out of four Planned Parenthoods, one that provides abortions - up to 13 weeks 6 days in Portland, which is pretty close to the New Hampshire border. Three private clinics (two co-owned) in Augusta, South Portland, and Bangor offer mainly first-trimester abortions and are somewhat spread out throughout the state, although women living close to the Canada border might be better off visiting our neighbors to the north than traveling several hours south.

Vermont has ten Planned Parenthoods, three of which offer abortion, two of which offer surgical abortion, and one of which offers surgical past the first trimester (up to 17 weeks). They’re pretty well-spread out throughout the state, but depending on what you need you may not be able to go to the clinic closest to you. Of course, Canada’s pretty close to them too. They seem to have this health care thing figured out better than we do, and I don’t doubt their abortion access beats ours.

Finally, New Hampshire has six Planned Parenthoods with three offering abortion services. Two offer surgicals up to 12 weeks 6 days. There are also three private clinics which offer both types of abortion, including surgical procedures up to 14 weeks 6 days at one. (Amy interviewed the fabulous abortion care workers at one of these clinics, which you can listen to here.)

I’ve done this all out on a map just to see what it looks like geographically. The results are pretty interesting.

Now think about Mississippi. And its lone abortion clinic. Whose doors may be shut as a result of the absurd and politically motivated TRAP laws.

We have, by my count, over 40 places that openly provide abortion services in all our six little New England states. We have almost five times the population of Mississippi (roughly 14.5 million versus three million) and about one and a half times the area. And forty times more places where you can get an abortion.

I haven't even started to look at the situation in other states, though my hope is to expand this map into a larger project documenting access across the country. I know there are many other states, which tend to be a whole lot bigger than our teensy little New England communities, that have very limited access and require many hours upon hours of travel to reach a clinic.

As I said before, the situation in New England is not fantastic. We have parental consent laws, and state insurances that don't cover abortion, and state-mandated "counseling," and other such onerous restrictions and obstacles and things that make it damn hard to actually access (and provide) abortions. And we're the lucky ones. Soon, Mississippians might not even have that.