JACKSON, Miss. – Hundreds of abortion-rights activists and anti-abortion activists squared off in a contentious rally Saturday with both sides proclaiming Mississippi a new key battleground state in the fight over Roe v. Wade.
The National Organization for Women and other abortion-rights groups gathered at a park in downtown Jackson across from the governor’s mansion, vowing to counter an eight-day rally by the national anti-abortion group, Operation Save America.
Operation Save America is holding rallies across Jackson in an effort to force the closure of Mississippi’s only abortion clinic – a move NOW and abortion-rights advocates say would chip away at Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.
A bomb threat halted the rally, leading to angry exchanges between the groups. The Jackson Police Department cleared the park and blew up a package found by a bomb squad. Officers would not say what the package contained.
NOW President Kim Gandy said the contentious rally showed “Mississippi is a battleground state for sure.”
Gandy said if the state’s only abortion clinic is closed, “it’s going to have a devastating impact on the women who live here and don’t have other options that they can exercise.”
Flip Benham, Operation Save America director, said his group will remain in Mississippi until the Jackson Women’s Health Organization abortion clinic shuts its doors for good.
“I’m here to tell the truth,” Benham said to an abortion-rights activist who questioned why he was at the rally. “We were out at the clinic earlier today and we are out here to bring the Gospel. Of course, when you do that – bring the real Gospel – all hell is going to break loose and all of heaven is going to come down.”
He said there were eight abortion clinics in Mississippi in 1993, the last time his group came to the state, “and now you have only one abortion mill and what you are seeing is that all eyes are turned to Mississippi.”
Susan Hill, president of the National Women’s Health Organization, which manages the clinic, recently told a local newspaper the clinic has no intention of closing.