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Where is the iconic Pink House that started the Dobbs decision?

Scripps News spoke with the former owner of Mississippi's last abortion clinic that was in the middle of the Dobbs decision one year ago.
Where is the iconic Pink House that started the Dobbs decision?
Posted at 7:10 PM, Jun 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-23 21:11:52-04

For decades, Roe v. Wade set the foundation for legalized abortion in every state. 

But then came the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision — and it changed everything.

Now, a year later, Scripps News spoke with the former owner of Mississippi's last abortion clinic that was in the middle of that decision.

Diane Derzis says after the Roe v. Wade decision, she sold the property to a nearby business owner who in turn sold it off.

It was a conservative majority U.S. Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade a year ago. That sent abortion legality decisions back to the states. Some people were shocked by the decision, according to Derzis.

"How many people would say to me, you're crazy. They're never going to make this illegal. But they did." said Diane Derzis, former owner of Jackson Women's Health.

"You know, those of us that have been providers have seen this coming," Derzis continued.

In June 2022, Scripps News visited the now unassuming white building in the middle of the artsy Fondren district of Jackson, Mississippi, that used to be an iconic pink color — hence the nickname "Pink House" — and was home to the state's only abortion clinic for almost two decades.

Derzis ran the clinic even amid fierce opposition, protests, lawsuits and sometimes violence on the steep street that led to the clinic entrance. Derzis says some of the Pink House staff have relocated to a place she calls Pink House West.

SEE MORE: Abortion rights activists call on President Biden for more action

"So, they've just moved to New Mexico where they've been warmly welcomed. It's amazing. A completely different environment from what they were accustomed to. But, you know, women can be seen there. Unfortunately, that's not true in the state of Mississippi," Derzis said.

Derzis has been fighting for abortion rights for decades. In the 1970s after the Roe decision, Derzis worked as a counselor. "When they opened the first clinic in Alabama, I just drove them crazy until they hired me." Derzis said. 

A serial bomber struck that Alabama clinic in 1998.

"They bombed my clinic. Eric Rudolph blew up the clinic that I had. He killed an officer who was working as a security guard. And he named one of the RN'S who was there who lives with us to this very day. The first two doctors they killed were our doctors at one of our clinics. So we lived with that. You know, I had doctors dressing in masks, coming in to prevent being followed. The harassment that went on then it was, you were tested. I guess that's the way to look at it. If you didn't believe in this strongly enough, you certainly could not have stayed in the business," Derzis said.

As years passed, Derzis watched the political tide turn. States like Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi began proposing bills, chipping away at abortion rights. Eventually, Derzis moved to Jackson.

"They got smarter as time went on. In their local races, and they built from there to be in a position which they are in now, and that's to completely take over a state." said Derzis.

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On the other side is Terri Herring. She runs one of the biggest pro-life organizations in the Magnolia state, Choose Life Mississippi.

"I came to this capital in 1986," Terri Herring said. "Over the last 35 years, we've passed many laws," she continued.

Among them was a trigger law, which immediately banned abortion in Mississippi when the Supreme Court issued its decision against Jackson Women's Health Organization. Many here in Mississippi are now wondering what's next.

"They're coming after your birth control next," said Derzis. "Do you hear any rumblings of them going after birth control? And by them, I mean legislators." 

Scripps News asked Terri Herring.

"That is so far from where we wanted to go with our legislature and our push," Herring said. She continued, "To me you turn that into a health question, is it really healthy for women to be on hormones from the time they're 14, 15, 16? Hopefully not until they're 18. But you know, is that a healthy thing for women?"

This past march, facing Democratic criticism that he didn't care about life after birth, Republican Governor Tate Reeves expanded Medicaid for mothers. And, to encourage adoption, lawmakers are pledging to reform foster care services in Mississippi, along with other ideas.

"Those that have money will get [abortions]. You can catch a plane and be there ... But those who don't have much ... They're the ones forced to have children," Derzis said.

Derzis hopes abortion clinics will be back in Mississippi sometime soon.

But for now, she is focusing on her other clinics, from Virginia to New Mexico.


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