Mississippi is among a number of states seeking to end abortion. Despite a study by the Pew Research Center that found 70 percent of Americans want the procedure to remain legal. This year Mississippi Legislators passed a law that restricts abortion to about six weeks of pregnancy. A federal judge has blocked it from taking effect. Today we begin a two part series talking to women on both sides of the abortion issue. MPB'S Desare Frazier has more from a woman who chose an abortion.
Amanda Furdge-Shelby is dropping off her three boys at a daycare in Jackson. The out-going 31-year old greets teachers as she says goodbye to her 6 and 5-year olds, before heading to the nursery with her 4 month old.
Shelby is married. The Mississippi native moved to Chicago after graduating from high school to join the Navy. Shelby likes to say she came of age in the Windy City. That’s where she says she started experiencing sex and became pregnant.
"I never had these experiences on these conversations growing up. In my house it's don't even kiss cause you can get pregnant. So we didn't talk about sex at home. We didn't talk about sex at school beyond abstinence," said Shelby.
Shelby comes from a deeply religious family. Her father is a pastor. When she became pregnant--she didn’t know abortion was even an option until her boyfriend told her. She terminated the pregnancy. That was her first abortion.
"The most significant part of the termination was my partner, saying it's your body, number 1, you do what you want to do. Number 2, I want to support you if you want me to support you and number 3, he's a preacher's kid too (laughs) God will forgive you life will go on," said Shelby.
Several years later Shelby fell in love and became pregnant again. She wanted the baby. He didn’t. Shelby says she struggled with what to do, but was frightened at the prospect of raising a child alone. She got her second abortion, but told herself she’d never do it again.
"After that time I felt like O.K., I've terminated two pregnancies, I'm never having another abortion and I was attached to that pregnancy," said Shelby.
Time passes; Shelby thinks she’s met the “one” and eventually they have a child together. Over time, she says he becomes emotionally abusive. To get away from him, Shelby returns to Mississippi with her now 6-year old, son Titan. Right after she arrives, Shelby thinks she’s pregnant. The young mother calls a number in an ad, believing she’s calling an abortion clinic. But it’s a crisis pregnancy center where abortions are discouraged. Shelby says after waiting several hours at the center to speak with someone, a woman comes in and asks about her son.
"And she asked me for a picture of him and I had a picture on my phone and I showed her a picture and she said 'oh he's so handsome, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah' and I'm like yeah he is whatever, whatever and then she said 'what if somebody told you that they were going to take your baby and kill him and you'd never see him again.' I just remember being like 'what?'" said Shelby.
Wanting an abortion, Shelby finds the only clinic in Mississippi that provides them; the Jackson Women's Health Organization, commonly called the “Pink House.” But by the time the clinic can see her, she’ll be past the timeframe in which they’ll perform an abortion, which is 16 weeks.
"Mom, why won't you give your little baby boy, or baby girl a chance to live today," said protester.
Protestors outside the pink house would be glad to know Shelby couldn’t get an abortion. They come from across the state and beyond, to demonstrate, handing out religious pamphlets and shouting at women going into the facility, urging them not to have an abortion. The fencing around the entrance to the clinic is blacked out to keep protestors from seeing women walk into the facility. Retired pastor David Lane of Byram says he stands outside the clinic three times a week.
"We're here trying to intercede for the babies and number 2, we're trying to save the girls heartache, sorrow and pain, Like I said, I've been doing this for 32 years, I've been a pastor and I've ministered to ladies that have had abortions and see the devastation that happens to them, after they come to the realization you know that they did kill their child," said Lane.
Music blares from a speaker outside the clinic door to keep women from hearing protesters. Construction across the street at times also drowns them out. Derenda Hancock, a long-time volunteer escort, says she’s had an abortion. She says It wasn’t a difficult choice for her, but it is for others. Hancock says one protester sometimes brings an amplifier and plays a recording that says:
"'I love you Mommie, please don't kill me. I want to hug you and kiss your face.' That's very painful for women, particularly because many of othe women who come here already have children and to have to hear that while you're trying to walk into your medical facility," said Hancock.
Hancock says sometimes there are more than 150 protesters here; on this day more than a dozen. She along with other volunteers keep demonstrators from blocking the clinic’s parking lot as they escort the women inside as a group. Protesters try to get the women's attention.
"Don't let them lie to you. This is a baby inside of you with a heartbeat, ten fingers and ten toes," said protester.
Amanda Furdge-Shelby says she doesn’t feel guilty about having two abortions. She was in an abusive relationship and sought another one but had the child. Mega is now 5 years old.
"Even though I wanted to terminate the pregnancy, I didn't want to terminate who is now Mega. I love Mega like you know the baby he was and I also knew if I have a baby that's my responsibility. It's going to happen, I'm going to take care of you. I'm not going to resent you," said Shelby.
Shelby and her husband, a minister, have a 4-month old together. She says women should have the right to make decisions about their reproductive health and to outlaw abortion she says is wrong.
In part two, we'll hear from a woman who decided not to end her unplanned pregnancy.