Transcript

774: The Pink House at the Center of the World

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Prologue: Prologue

Ira Glass

OK. So Brown v. Board of Education, huge Supreme Court case, 1954, desegregates public schools in America, and Brown is Oliver L. Brown, a welder for the railroads and assistant pastor. It was actually 13 parents who brought the lawsuit, but he's the only one whose name is on it, not because he's first alphabetically.

People think maybe the lawyers picked him because he's the only dad on the list. All the other parents are moms. 1973, Roe v. Wade. Roe is Jane Roe, real name Norma McCorvey, working as a carnival barker, gets pregnant. She's already had two babies, girls, who other people were raising. She didn't want to go through that a third time.

At a bar one night, someone tells her that there's this thing called an abortion. Norma tries to get one, but can't-- it's illegal-- and finally signs up as the plaintiff for the lawsuit, she says, because it's the only way she can find to get the abortion she wants.

This year, the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, the plaintiff is an abortion clinic in Jackson, Mississippi, the Jackson Women's Health Organization. And on the day the clinic lost and Roe was overturned, that's where we wanted to be, with the people whose case was making history on the day history was made.

For over a decade, the clinic has been the only abortion clinic in Mississippi. Many of their clients drive from hours away. Small building, mint green roof, unmissable, super bright pink exterior, like the building is saying, yeah, we're here, deal with it.

Recently, they haven't allowed press inside to record, but we teamed up with a filmmaker, Maisie Crow, who filmed in the clinic starting in 2012 for a great and very nuanced movie that she made about abortion in Mississippi, and is back there now shooting another film. She was the only journalist who was allowed to be there that day, and she brought us along to witness and record these moments that no one else has seen or reported on until now.

What we've made up all this, and what we have for you today, is a special episode of our show. It is This American Life, by the way, from WBEZ Chicago. I'm Ira Glass, and what we're going to do is we're going to start at the Mississippi clinic. That's basically the crash site for this massive cultural, political boulder that just landed in all of our lives with this Supreme Court decision.

And then, after that, we're going to head out from the clinic, move up into Illinois, and then further out to Missouri and Texas, places and people who were hit by the shockwave of that impact in various ways. Stay with us.

Act One: The Pink House

Maisie Crow

I'm Maisie Crow. This is Act One, The Pink House at the Center of the World. The people who work in the Pink House at the corner of Fondren and State Street have known for a while history was coming for them. They just didn't know the exact date or what they'd do in the clinic on the day it happened. Would they immediately have to cancel patients? What would they say to people? Where would they go?

We begin this story a couple of days before the Supreme Court decision on a Wednesday night. Because their days are so busy and full, this was the first time they sat down to really discuss what to do as a group if Roe were overturned. The director of the clinic, Shannon Brewer, gathered her staff in the waiting room at the end of the workday after patients had gone home.

This kind of meeting with everybody together, they're not all that common at the clinic. Everybody's just too busy. So it felt serious.

Shannon Brewer

Y'all going to need to know what's gonna be probably going on within the next week. The decision come now either Thursday, Friday, or Monday. I think they're not going to do it till Monday, but I could be wrong. I don't know.

Maisie Crow

Shannon has worked at the Jackson clinic for more than two decades. She started out at the bottom, a scrub tech sterilizing instruments. She needed a job. She had six kids, all little, and she came to the field kind of randomly. Her aunt worked at the clinic and brought her in. Shannon was 29 back then. Now she's 50 and the leader.

Shannon Brewer

We already know this, that it's going to be crazy. We're gonna-- I got to talk to-- we're having a meeting with the attorneys tomorrow, as far as what is to be done once the decision comes down, because it's been conflicting things that's been said as far as what the next step is.

Maisie Crow

There's just a small staff at the clinic, very family-like, very interconnected. Shannon's sister works here. Shannon's become kind of known nationally for keeping this place open. Like, last year, she went to the White House to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris.

Pretty much ever since she started, and even before she started, people have been trying to shut the Pink House down. They've tried everything. The state has buried them in regulations, wrestled them in David-and-Goliath-sized court cases. No matter what was thrown at the Pink House-- and that's what everybody calls it-- it was unshuttable. It would not stop, just like Shannon Brewer.

Shannon Brewer

OK, one group there, one group there, six surgicals. Six surgicals. Mm.

Maisie Crow

She's rarely fazed by anything, talks to herself while she works. I've seen her be really kind to patients while she's also explaining the harsh reality that they're too far along to get an abortion in Mississippi and that they'll have to go to another state.

Her office is set up for warm, fuzzy vibes, inspirational sayings up everywhere, things like "Sometimes life's about risking it all for a dream nobody can see but you." There's also a big video monitor with feeds from the security cameras all over the building. I've never been in her office when her eyes aren't darting to the screen every few seconds.

Maisie Crow

And what about the sign on your desk?

Shannon Brewer

Oh, don't play with me. That's just the truth. I'm a fucking professional. What are you talking about? That is what is says.

Miki

What I love about that is that it faces inward.

Maisie Crow

That's my producer, Miki.

Shannon Brewer

I know. I don't want everybody to see it because I don't want to be just-- oh my god, it's a little too ghetto. But yeah, I like it so much. I'm a fucking professional.

Miki

How awesome would it be as, like, your press conference that you give, whenever the Supreme Court decision is, you just have this right here?

Shannon Brewer

I may just do that. I mean, what can it hurt at that point? That's a good idea. I think I may-- yeah. When they say, well, what would you like to say, I would say some things, but I'm a fucking professional, as you can see. So I won't. But yeah, I think I may turn it around then. It'll be the time to turn it around.

Maisie Crow

These days, even with the entire world looking at her, Shannon was coping OK. She had this moment during the oral arguments of the Supreme Court case. She got to DC, and all she saw were anti-abortion activists and protesters and politicians everywhere cheering on the other side. Very few people showed up for her. She felt very alone.

She says she's not surprised at all by where we're at right now. So while many people are freaking out about Roe being overturned, Shannon says she's hardened to it.

Shannon Brewer

Oh, I sleep fine. I don't-- it doesn't affect my sleep. I remember years ago, when we were doing court things and had to be in and out of courts, I remember I used to have a hard time sleeping sometimes. I don't have these hard times sleeping anymore, even though this is about as real as it gets.

I had to come to the realization that, however this goes, I did my part. And if I know I did my part, my conscience is fine. My-- you know, everything. I can sleep well because I fought all the way into the end, regardless of who was fighting beside me. I did my part.

I'm like, I did exactly what I said I would do. I stayed here. I told the women I would fight for them. I fought for them. So I sleep well, actually. Yeah.

Woman 1

So just logistics-wise, all the patients that have appointments, we'll just call them all and cancel them, because there's-- I looked--

Maisie Crow

In that staff meeting they had two days before the Roe decision, people were nervous, asking questions about what would happen once it came down.

Woman 1

So all those ones that have appointments, maybe those could be transferred somewhere else.

Shannon Brewer

Yeah, I mean, we're going to have to figure out-- I don't even know where they will be transferred at this point with the fact that many of them are coming here because other places are--

Woman 1

Closed down.

Woman 2

Are we allowed to transfer them?

Shannon Brewer

Refer? To refer?

Woman 2

Yeah. To refer them.

Shannon Brewer

Um, I don't know.

Woman 2

OK.

Shannon Brewer

Yeah.

Maisie Crow

Shannon didn't know because no one knew. What she did know, what they all knew, was that the decision coming down would mean the end of their jobs at the Pink House and the end of the Pink House itself. Most importantly, it meant that all the patients who needed them would be stranded. The next closest clinic is three states away in Illinois.

After most of the questions petered out, the youngest member of the staff, Molly, asked a question. She hadn't talked yet, but she'd been sitting in a chair across from Shannon, nodding along as she spoke, hyper concentrating on Shannon's face as she tried to absorb it all.

Molly

I've got a question.

Shannon Brewer

Uh-huh?

Molly

How do you feel?

Shannon Brewer

About what?

Molly

Everything.

Shannon Brewer

This is overwhelming, really. It's really just overwhelming. I've been so focused on the next step, the next step because that's how my mind works. It's like it's just not focusing on what is wrong but rather what is the next step, because that's the only way I can keep going to where I didn't really think about the emotional part of it.

Molly

Right.

Shannon Brewer

Until when the doctor started saying-- Dr. Hamlin first, on her last day, she was like-- she came to me, and it was kind of sad. She was like, well, I don't know if I'm going to see y'all again here.

Molly

Oh, wow.

Shannon Brewer

I was like, what do you mean? It's because it just did not register with me. That's when it really started registering with me, because, before then, it honestly wasn't. Like I was telling her today, it probably won't really hit me until the last day that I walk out of here. I've been here 21 years.

Molly

Wow.

Shannon Brewer

You know?

Molly

That's a long time.

Shannon Brewer

It's like, wow.

Molly

It's your baby.

Shannon Brewer

So yeah, it's pretty sad, actually.

Woman

Yeah, it's really sad.

Maisie Crow

The staff, who, in good times is, chatty, laughy, was oddly quiet in the room, everyone just looking at Shannon. All these other clinics around the country under the same threat were already shutting their doors. Even though the decision hadn't come down yet, they had decided it was over. South Dakota, Oklahoma, those clinics were planning the end. But Shannon was expanding.

Shannon had decided that if the state was going to close the Pink House in Jackson, Mississippi, she was going to help open a new Pink House west in New Mexico. It was within driving distance of Mississippi, a long drive, 15 hours, but still, she hoped she could open the doors in that clinic the day the doors in this one closed. At this meeting, she told her staff, I'm going out to get the new clinic ready. You stay here and keep going.

Shannon Brewer

I'm gonna be leaving. I'm gonna be gone in the morning. So I'm not going to be here tomorrow. So I was going to tell y'all just before I go.

Maisie Crow

Keep going until the last possible moment of the last possible day. That's what they'd been doing for almost 30 years. That's what they'd keep doing.

Shannon Brewer

That's all. Y'all got any other questions?

Woman

So tomorrow as usual unless we hear something?

Shannon Brewer

Yeah, yeah, yeah, everything is as usual. Unless I'm calling saying, do this, don't do this anymore, blah, blah, blah, you just do what you normally do.

Woman

OK.

Shannon Brewer

Yeah. I just wanted to tell y'all that so that everybody have a better understanding. Yep, yep.

Woman

Thank you.

Shannon Brewer

You're welcome, baby. You're welcome. You're welcome. You're welcome. All right, let's see. Oh, my goodness.

Maisie Crow

The staff left. Shannon walked back to her office and just sat there.

Shannon Brewer

Oh, lordy, lordy, lordy.

Maisie Crow

I've known Shannon for years, spent hundreds of hours with her. She rarely cracks. She doesn't often show emotion.

Maisie Crow

How did that feel?

Shannon Brewer

The talking was fine. I was watching their faces. Watching their faces was not as easy. It's like you could see it.

Maisie Crow

I watched as wave after wave of realization hit Shannon in real time.

Shannon Brewer

[SIGHS] Mm, girl. This world we live in. It's just amazing what they let people do to certain people, to poor people, to Black people, to people that already been suffering and going through so much all they life. And it's like it's just never ending sometimes. You know what I'm saying?

Every-- people who do it. That's the thing. These are the same people who elect-- the ones who elect these people to do this. These are our neighbors and [SIGHS] our preachers and our people that are just around us all the time.

These are the ones who are electing these people, putting these people in these positions to take stuff from us. Ah. As if we haven't had enough stuff taken from us all these years. That's crazy. [SIGHS] I don't want to talk about this no more. I got to go outside.

Maisie Crow

Two days later, outside the clinic, Friday, what ended up being the day the Supreme Court handed down the decision. It started off like a normal day. Protesters lined the street, screaming at staff, screaming at patients. The protesters today are the same as usual, mostly all men, mostly all white.

A man gets up on a ladder with a bullhorn, leans down over the pink stucco wall of the clinic, shouting Bible verses about damnation. The people who manage this scene are called the Pink House defenders. Their job is to guide patients safely inside the clinic and shield them from the protesters.

The protesters scream murderer at patients, and the defenders blast music on speakers to drown them out. They don't want the patients to have to hear all the yelling. Their playlist, inexplicably '90s alt rock, Smashing Pumpkins, Toad the Wet Sprocket. Today, it's Tom Petty.

[MUSIC - TOM PETTY, "I WON'T BACK DOWN"]

Protester

Jesus Christ died for sinners once for all, the righteous and unrighteous, to bring us to God!

Maisie Crow

The defenders are led by Derenda Hancock. She's 63, a wiry blonde, who managed restaurants for decades and now waits tables at a chain steakhouse. She'll as quickly yell go fuck yourself to a protester as she'll whisper, right this way, baby girl, to a patient.

For 10 years, she's posted herself outside in front of the Pink House, not for money. All the defenders do it for free. Derenda's been here since 4:45 AM. Her usual is 6:45, but the protesters have been starting early this week, and she does not like them to get here before her, ever.

Derenda Hancock

But we'll get you in as soon as you're ready, honey, OK?

Maisie Crow

Just after 9:00, the news from the Supreme Court comes down. Derenda speed walks into the clinic.

Derenda Hancock

I need to go check on the staff. I'm going to check on the staff.

Protester

--shall turn from their wicked ways and pray, seek my fate. Then I will hear from heaven [INAUDIBLE]. This nation [INAUDIBLE].

Derenda Hancock

[SIGHS]

Do we have any direction? It's over.

Woman 1

Oh, it's over?

Derenda Hancock

It's over.

Maisie Crow

They go past the reception desk, down the hallway, a small cluster of staff keeping their voices low so they don't alarm the patients.

Derenda Hancock

I messaged Shannon. I'm waiting to hear back what we're supposed to do. I mean, we're not-- this is fine, but, yeah, it went down.

Woman 2

OK. OK.

Maisie Crow

They hug.

Derenda Hancock

I can't break.

Woman 2

Don't break. Stay strong, baby. Stay strong.

Molly

Oh, Miss Derenda, It's OK. It's OK.

Derenda Hancock

I know.

Molly

It's OK.

Derenda Hancock

We're going to be all right.

Molly

It's OK.

Derenda Hancock

I know. I can't cry out there.

Molly

OK.

Derenda Hancock

[SIGHS]

Thank you. I can't be out there like that. There's so much press.

Woman 3

Don't let them see you like that.

Maisie Crow

Don't let them see you like that, someone tells Derenda.

Derenda Hancock

You know I won't.

Maisie Crow

This is the entire conversation. They give themselves precisely 49 seconds for all of it. Then Derenda heads for the door. She has to get her team together to deal with the crowd of protesters and press.

Woman 4

Strong Derenda.

Maisie Crow

Strong Derenda, someone yells behind her. As the door closes, she turns around and shouts back.

Derenda Hancock

Not stronger than you. [LAUGHS]

Protester

You gotta lay down your shame!

Derenda Hancock

I need everybody. I need everybody. I need all my people!

Maisie Crow

Protesters are trying to block the driveway to the clinic.

Derenda Hancock

Stay out of the fucking driveway!

Protester

Holiness. Holiness. Righteousness! Oh, the Lord, our righteousness!

Maisie Crow

For a few seconds, as Derenda slips out the door, the noise from outside pours in. And then the doors close, shoving the world back outside for the staff to figure out what to do now.

Nita

Oh, wow. Oh my god.

Maisie Crow

The staff members collect themselves immediately and get back to answering the calls. The phones are backing up, ringing constantly, the lights blinking non-stop on all the office lines.

Molly

Jackson Women's Health. May I help you? No. No, ma'am. We're not doing any more abortions. The decision came out, and it's in effect in 26 states.

Maisie Crow

Women calling, wanting abortions, wanting to know, can you still help me, can you get me in, looking for any clinic still open in the Southern half of the country.

Molly

Jackson Women's Health. Ma'am, we cannot reschedule your appointment.

Maisie Crow

Any staff member who can is grabbing calls.

Woman 1

Jackson Women's Health, hold please. Jackson Women's Health, hold please.

Nita

Jackson Women's Health. May I help you? OK, we're not accepting new appointments. We are closing. I don't know if you saw the news. We are-- they have overturned us. And that's crazy, ain't it? How they gonna tell somebody what to do with their body? Yes, ma'am. It hurts my soul. Yes, ma'am. Call back in [INAUDIBLE].

Maisie Crow

All day, people are asking, so if I can't get an abortion in Mississippi, what should I do?

Nita

Jackson Women's Health, may I help you?

Maisie Crow

With Shannon in New Mexico opening Pink House West, her sister Nita takes charge.

Nita

Jackson Women's Health, may I help you?

Maisie Crow

Like everyone else, Nita's answering the phones.

Nita

No, that's going to be a hard decision. It's kind of hard right now to think that it will reopen back up, but I don't think it will reopen back up, sweetheart. I'm so sorry. It's sad. It's really sad. It's tearing my heart up. Trust me, because people don't know what other people go through, you know what I'm saying? And it really hurts. I know, sweetheart.

Maisie Crow

People ask, if there's no more abortion, what am I supposed to do? One caller asked, can I get my tubes tied?

Nita

Uh-huh. You want your tubes tied. I don't know, sweetheart. You have to call the hospital and see do they tie tubes at certain-- you said you have three kids. Now, back in the days, they did that. When you had three kids, they would tie your tubes, but that was in Chicago.

We don't do that here at the abortion clinic. We don't do that here, but you have to call the hospital for that, sweetheart. OK. No, ma'am. We don't have no more Plan Bs. You're welcome. Jackson Women's Health. OK. [SIGHS] [INAUDIBLE]

Get yourself together, Nita. Get yourself together. I'm gonna be OK. I'm gonna be OK. Yeah.

Maisie Crow

This is the sound of Roe ending. All day long, the phones never let up.

Molly

Jackson Women's Health. No, ma'am, we're not taking any more new appointments right now. No, ma'am, I do not. The decision's court just came in. So we don't know, ma'am.

Nita

Jackson Women's Health, may I help you?

Maisie Crow

Before long, they come up with a new plan. I'll tell you more later in the hour.

Molly

We're not doing any more, ma'am. Tennessee is closed too, ma'am. It's just one of them. You welcome. Jackson Women's Health, may I help you?

Act Two: Welcome to Illinois—Abortion Oasis

Zoe Chace

This is Zoe Chase with Act 2. Welcome to Illinois, Abortion Oasis.

Carolyn Sheryll

So what we're about to do, we're going to take this call, and this is probably a person that's requesting for some assistance. By this area code, they're probably calling me from Tennessee, OK? Regional Logistics Center. This is Carolyn. How can I help you?

Zoe Chace

500 miles away from Jackson, in Fairview Heights, Illinois, there's this big building, a sparkling new abortion complex, a mega clinic made for the post Roe world. Planned Parenthood decided they needed to build a place where everyone coming from all the other places could go, the Mississippis, the Texases, Oklahoma, Missouri. St. Louis is just across the river.

I was there a couple of weeks ago. It's 18,000 square feet, a maze of bright hallways and procedure rooms and counseling rooms and the innocuously-named, but very important, Regional Logistics Center. That's where Carolyn Sheryll works.

Carolyn Sheryll

OK. So are you needing travel assistance and procedure funding? How many total people in your household?

Zoe Chace

Carolyn's job is to get people to this huge clinic for an abortion and connect them to what they need in order to do that, mostly money. She's from St. Louis. She has neon yellow nails that click loudly. She types fast.

She's got this little sign up right in her line of vision that says, "Stand with Black women," and that's why she does this job, she says, to help young women like herself. She's warm when you meet her, but on the phone, she has this impersonal customer service voice. There's a lot of forms and information she needs to get through.

Carolyn Sheryll

All right, and your total household monthly income? And what procedure are you choosing, the medical pill or the surgical?

Zoe Chace

The woman on the phone, who is from Tennessee, tells Carolyn she wants a surgical abortion.

Carolyn Sheryll

The total cost of that service is $540. How much did you have towards that balance?

Zoe Chace

She says she only has $100. Carolyn's computer program can instantly tap into abortion funds from all over the country. It'll take $100 from the National Abortion Federation, $75 from the Chicago abortion fund, and automatically apply that to the patient's balance. On this call, she also tabs over and squares pop-up with the names of all the states. She clicks Tennessee to find the local abortion fund.

Carolyn Sheryll

I am going to reach out to some funders in your state. Let's see exactly who that will be. You're coming from Tennessee, correct? All right, and what county are you located in?

Zoe Chace

Last year, Carolyn was working at Planned Parenthood as just an appointment booker. There was no Regional Logistics Center yet, no place which found financial support for travel and stuff. Carolyn's only job was scheduling the appointments, the date and time that people should show up, which was stressful.

Carolyn Sheryll

I used to hang up every day like, what are we going to do? How are they going to make it? What's she going to do? Like, you have those thoughts like, I wonder how she's going to make it to her appointment. I wonder where she's going to find the rest of that money that we said that she needs.

So yeah, people need support. These young women need somebody to stand up for them, give them encouragement that they are making the right decision. I mean, you don't understand the need that comes across this phone.

Zoe Chace

Like this patient who just drove down from Michigan, who was there in the waiting room just down the hall. Carolyn got an urgent message about her from the staff at the front desk.

Carolyn Sheryll

All right, give me one second.

Zoe Chace

The woman is 25 weeks pregnant, right on the line of what is allowed, and had just driven over 500 miles. She'd showed up with $1,500, not nearly enough for that procedure, which is about $5,000, because it's a complicated procedure at that point. It can take two to three days. So if the woman doesn't get the rest of the money like right then, her window snaps shut.

Carolyn Sheryll

All right, so we did get you pretty much funded. Pay the 15 that you did state that you do have, and I'll worry about this $400 balance and get this covered for you, OK?

Zoe Chace

Carolyn hangs up. We could have paid for her hotel, she's saying, shaking her head, then she'd have that extra $400.

Carolyn Sheryll

But we'll get it. So watch. Watch me work.

Zoe Chace

I was told this new abortion complex might have to go from eight hours of patient care a day to 10 hours, and then probably 12. Already, one doctor on site sees around nine patients an hour. That's how fast an abortion can be, as little as three minutes, and it's over. They're projecting 14,000 new patients in the next year coming to Southern Illinois from nearby states.

Act Three: The Abortion Desert Across the River

Zoe Chace

Which brings me to Act 3, The Abortion Desert Across the River. On June 24, the day Roe was overturned, I was in St. Louis, Missouri. I drove to meet a Missouri State representative named Mary Elizabeth Coleman. Mary Elizabeth Coleman has been running at abortion for years. She never stops running.

Practically, the moment she got to the statehouse, she was helping to write a heartbeat bill. That bill included the trigger ban that ended abortion in the state of Missouri. In the last few months, she's been getting a lot of attention for this strategy that she came up with to attack the mega clinic Planned Parenthood built in Illinois.

Mary Elizabeth wrote a bill that would punish people who helped someone in Missouri cross state lines to get an abortion. The bill didn't go anywhere, but it's getting a lot of attention right now. Lots of people are talking about state lines as the next frontier in the fight against abortion.

The day Roe fell, Mary Elizabeth told me to meet her at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, closest Catholic Church, just down the street, to the last abortion clinic in Missouri.

Zoe Chase

Um, what are we doing here?

Mary Elizabeth Coleman

So I just was praying at the adoration chapel here and, yeah, just kind of taking a minute.

Zoe Chace

She's come to this church many times to pray for the end of abortion in their Adoration Chapel, the special place in the church where Catholics believe God is literally present. We were whispering just outside the doorway. This moment she'd been working her whole life for felt so heavy.

Mary Elizabeth Coleman

I just feel really, really sad about all the lives that have been lost and mourn all of the people who've been harmed and also feel just an incredible sense of gratitude and peace and joy that this has been fixed, that this terrible decision has been overcome. And it's an incredible victory for people like me, who call ourselves the pro-life generation.

Like, I was adamant that we would be-- just adamant as a kid that we'd be the generation that would end Roe, and, like, it happened, and it worked, and it just feels really overwhelming.

Zoe Chace

Alongside these feelings, she says, is worry. She's thinking about the response, the way people are going to react to what happened, what that's going to look like, what that's going to feel like.

The day Roe fell also happened to be the feast day celebrating the birth of Saint John the Baptist, the guy known for preparing the way for Jesus and baptizing him in the Bible. It's traditionally celebrated with a bonfire. Mary Elizabeth and 60 of her closest friends gathered at her house that night with her parish priest.

Woman 1

Should we like the fire?

Zoe Chace

It was drinks, chips, prayer, s'mores.

Woman 2

What a wonderful day.

Man 1

Agreed. I know. I've cried twice today.

Woman 3

Have you?

Man 1

Yeah.

Mary Elizabeth Coleman

You're a big crier too.

Man 1

I am.

Zoe Chace

It's not like shouts of victory here. It's more like nudging each other. Can you believe it?

Mary Elizabeth Coleman

Is it real? Is it real? Like, am I going to wake up tomorrow going, it really is real, you know? I think I will, but right now, I'm just like, it is real. It is real. Pinch me. You know? It is real.

Woman 4

Yeah.

Zoe Chace

You can't overstate what a big day this is for pro-life Catholics. This has been a long fight for some of them. Here they were, reminiscing about how many Marches for Life they've been on.

Man 2

It just makes it worthwhile, because those were brutal trips. You're on a bus all night. You get up there. You're exhausted.

Chris

Thank you for coming out and for being here on this feast of John the Baptist.

Zoe Chace

Chris, Mary Elizabeth's husband, gathers everyone out back.

Chris

And what a glorious day, and a beautiful evening for a fire. Father, it's all yours.

Man 3

And I can't resist having a captive audience just to say a quick word.

Zoe Chace

Saint John the Baptist's story starts with something called The Visitation. While she's pregnant, Mary goes to see her cousin Elizabeth, who's also pregnant. Upon seeing Mary, Elizabeth feels her child leap in her womb, recognizing Jesus, the Savior, in Mary's womb. Elizabeth basically says, Mary, your pregnancy is going to turn out great. Mary Elizabeth. This story from the Bible is her namesake.

Man 3

Roe v. Wade is overturned, for which many people like Mary Elizabeth have striven so hard to bring about a culture of life.

Zoe Chace

The bonfire burned out. The night went late. Mary Elizabeth told me she went to bed with this bracing feeling, holding her breath, some relief, but also dread, she said, about what happens next.

Man 3

The Lord be with you.

All

Holy spirit.

Man 3

Let us pray. Oh, Lord, God, father almighty, unfailing ray and source of all light, sanctify this new fire, and grant that after the darkness--

Act Four: Next

Ira Glass

This is Act 4, Next. What happens next is a subject for so many pro-life lawmakers, who spent years, like Mary Elizabeth, hoping to get to this point and overturn Roe. By the way, throughout today's show, we're using the terms for people on each side that they choose themselves-- like pro-life.

I've talked to a few of these lawmakers, and opinions really are all over the place. There's no consensus on how to proceed, just a general sense that the courts and Supreme Court seem to be on their side. And so there's no telling how far they're going to be able to go right now. Like, for example, here's one of the biggest questions out there that lawmakers in the movement do not agree on.

The question is, should states that ban abortion try to do anything about all the people who are going to cross state lines to get abortions in clinics like the one in Illinois that Zoe visited. What can they do? The Thomas More Society, this conservative nonprofit, has put together model legislation on this. They are one of a handful of outfits throwing out legal strategies right now. Peter Breen is their Vice President and senior counsel.

Peter Breen

Well, if you frame the question as trying to stop someone from across a state line, your natural instinct might be, oh, well, I don't think you can do that. But when you frame the question in the way that the Dobbs Supreme Court majority framed it, which is, this is an unborn human child, well, then the question looks a lot different, and the unborn child is now a resident and can be treated as a resident of their home state.

And when you look at it that way, the state's interest in protecting a minor who is a resident of that state, you can't just take the minor across state lines to do something illegal to that minor. That would be a grave crime. It is something that, in other contexts, such as sex trafficking or child abuse, no one would challenge that that home state has jurisdiction to protect that child.

Ira Glass

Would the courts agree with him? That is totally unclear. It raises complicated legal questions, and other pro-life legislators and legal thinkers do not think this is a slam dunk at all. But strategists are floating all sorts of ideas like this right now, and nobody knows which of those laws are going to hold up in court.

And in the coming months and years, we're going to be seeing all kinds of state laws using all kinds of tactics like these to try to crack down on abortion. I was interested to talk to somebody in the movement who is sorting through those ideas, trying to figure out what might work best right down, to hear how they're weighing the pros and cons of various approaches. And I went to one of the most forward looking, John Seago, President of Texas Right to Life.

Last year, Texas jumped to the front of the legal battle over abortion in our country when it passed the so-called Heartbeat Act, SB 8. That's the law that said that anyone in Texas, any private individual, could sue anybody who performs an abortion or anybody who even just helps someone get an abortion starting around six weeks after conception.

Seago helped shepherd that bill to passage. It's been widely imitated across the country. Seago's been talking to legislators and thinking a lot about what they should do next. And, for starters, he's somebody who does not think they should try to stop women from crossing state lines to get abortions.

John Seago

I'm not confident that's actually going to work as far as legislation. You can't outlaw aiding and abetting an activity in another state, and I'm sure that there is language out there that may be offered this session to get around some of that, but at this moment, I don't think that that's going to be the best use of our efforts right now.

Ira Glass

Are you saying that you think, actually, just from a practical point of view, it might be that the movement might have to live with the fact that some women are going to cross state lines, and there might be nothing that a state can do to stop that?

John Seago

I mean, this is a reality of federalism, and I don't think that that's going to be the best use of our efforts right now.

Ira Glass

That means, Seago says, not going after somebody who crosses state lines for an abortion, or people, or organizations who help them do it, or advertising that lets people know about abortion clinics in other states. Instead, John Seago says the movement in his state, Texas, should be focusing on making Texas a more hospitable place to keep and raise a baby with more support for mothers.

This is something I heard from other pro-life politicians around the country. Seago says another thing they have to do now that abortion is banned in so many states, they have to make sure the bans are enforced.

John Seago

The movement is unified that we need to fully enforce our laws. We have serious problems with that here in Texas with district attorneys saying they don't want to enforce our laws, even now with Roe v. Wade being overturned.

Ira Glass

What he's talking about is district attorneys in Texas counties that contain Dallas, and Austin, and San Antonio, and Corpus Christi, also Fort Bend County on the outskirts of Houston. All these district attorneys joining over 80 prosecutors around the country in saying they will not prosecute doctors who continue to do abortions.

John Seago

And so that's kind of one of the hurdles of how do we look at actually prosecuting that. Well, there's a couple of different public policy responses.

Ira Glass

For instance, they could authorize the Texas Attorney General to prosecute those cases or have DAs from nearby counties do it. But the best solution, Seago thinks, is to beef up what they did in the Texas abortion law and give private citizens more power to sue any doctor who they think is still performing abortions.

This, by the way, is also the approach recommended by the National Right to Life Committee. That's the national group that Texas Right to Life is affiliated with. They've drafted model legislation for states to adopt that would make it possible to prosecute anybody helping someone get an abortion in a state that's banned it by authorizing attorneys general to prosecute if local district attorneys don't want to do it and by giving citizens the power to sue anybody they think is breaking the law.

Specifically, the draft legislation would give the father and the grandparents of the unborn child the ability to sue for compensatory and punitive damages if there's an illegal abortion. And if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest, the father of the unborn child would not be able to sue for damages, but the way the draft law is written, his parents could.

Ira Glass

So the other big thing I wanted to talk to you about is pills. This is the other way that it seems like women in states that have banned abortion might still be able to get abortions. Right now, more than half of all the abortions in the United States are induced by pills.

The FDA has approved these medications for use up to 10 weeks of pregnancy, and the states that have banned surgical abortions have also made it illegal for a woman to go online and just order these pills from a website. But as a practical matter, it seems very hard to enforce.

These websites are often overseas. It would just be very difficult for a state like Texas or any other state to kind of reach overseas and do anything to the people who set up those websites. What can be done there? Where do you see opportunities for state legislators? Where do you see the limits of it?

John Seago

Yeah, I mean, this is another question of enforcement. So that activity of mailing abortion-inducing drugs is illegal in Texas, and so we're definitely looking at how can we enforce the law, where we're looking to tools that are not typically used.

And so how is this getting to Texans? Well, it's getting to them through the internet. It's getting through their internet providers or through their cell phone providers. And so are they breaking any federal laws? Are they breaking any state laws?

Ira Glass

But he says they're still figuring all this out. It's really not clear what's going to work. One promising option, he says, is to give the Texas Attorney General more power to prosecute companies overseas that are sending these abortion pills into Texas and to make it possible for private citizens to sue them as well, which, he hopes, will drag those companies into court in Texas to slow them down or stop them.

Ira Glass

I know it's always been a bright line for everybody trying to stop abortion in this country that they don't want to punish a pregnant woman who gets an abortion or wants an abortion. But when it comes to these websites, it seems like, really, that's the person who's choosing to make the abortion happen more than anybody else. Do you hear talk of anyone saying, well, let's stop the woman in some way from doing that or penalize the woman?

John Seago

Yes, I mean, there is a minority in the pro-life movement that they are focused on wanting to criminalize the woman seeking an abortion. That's a minority, but that is a loud minority, and, unfortunately, they're continuing to talk about that. We don't believe that that's the best priority for us. We don't think that that's really the best way that we can move forward.

We think that, after 50 years of the messaging from the media, the messaging from, unfortunately, our highest court of the land that this is a constitutional right, and this is something that's necessary for her success. We don't think that it's just to immediately turn around and to criminalize this activity just because the woman has believed what the media and what the Supreme Court has told her for 50 years.

Ira Glass

So in the long run, Seago says that he wants to end abortion in every state. He says if you really believe that life begins at conception, you have an obligation to try to stop abortion everywhere.

But in the short run, in the next legislative session in Texas, his goal is to pass laws that will help enforce the abortion ban in their state and go after abortion pills and whoever is sending them into Texas, somehow.

Act Five: The Pill Smuggler

Rebecca Grant

I'm reporter Rebecca Grant, and this is Act 5, The Pill Smuggler.

Stephanie

I think I seem like a little nice old lady. I walk my dog, and I'm a neighborhood kind of person.

Rebecca Grant

Do you think that you're able to do your legally risky work more safely because you come off as a nice little old lady?

Stephanie

Absolutely. Who else could do this but a nice little old lady that no one's going to pay any attention to? You know, who else can get away with this?

Rebecca Grant

This is Stephanie. Stephanie is in her 60s. She's a white lady, lives in a Southern red state, and what she's getting away with is this. She gets shipments of abortion pills from Mexico and India.

Then she mails them out to people who can't get an abortion at a clinic. There's no prescription involved, no doctors or nurses. The people who get the packages will take the pills and do their abortion at home. The lingo for this is self-managed abortion.

Stephanie, by the way, is not her real name, and this is not her real voice. We had an actor copy what she said as closely as possible to protect her identity. Stephanie runs this underground operation out of her bedroom.

When she gets a new shipment of pills, she puts on a pair of latex gloves, spreads out all her supplies on top of her king-size bed and divvies them up into little plastic baggies while she watches MSNBC. She loves Rachel Maddow.

Stephanie

So this is what it looks like. Sometimes it's a little bit thicker, and if you feel it, it's incredibly light, and I'll open it so you can see what's inside. Anyway, this is it.

Rebecca Grant

She showed me some of the pills.

Stephanie

So the big pill is our new exciting pill.

Rebecca Grant

In the last shipment, she received 50 mifepristone pills, miffys.

Stephanie

And this is miso.

Rebecca Grant

And over 1,000 misoprostol pills, misos. If all these pills were getting prescribed in a clinic, it would add up to about $30,000. She has generic versions. They're just as safe and effective.

Stephanie

And miso is like a wonder drug. It's just considered exceptionally effective and very safe.

Rebecca Grant

Stephanie has sent pills to hundreds of people. She fields requests through an encrypted email address. To send the pills, she stuffs them into bubble mailers from the dollar store along with a QR code that links to information about how to use them and the medical risks, which are few. Then, by hand, she writes out a random return address so that the package can never be traced back to her. She holds up a package to show me and my producer Aviva.

Stephanie

I usually go through houses for sale and put down an address of a house for sale somewhere in my area of the world.

Rebecca Grant

Are you just on Zillow or something?

Stephanie

Zillow.

Rebecca Grant

How are you finding these houses?

Stephanie

Yeah, mm-hmm, and then try to do different towns all over our area so it always comes from different towns.

Rebecca Grant

Stephanie, to be clear, is not a medical professional, and she's definitely not supposed to be distributing medication, though she has no idea what the punishment would be if she got caught.

Stephanie

Is it a slap on the wrist? Is it a misdemeanor? Is it a felony? How bad is it? And there are no clear cut answers from the lawyers.

Rebecca Grant

Is that because nobody has been, in a meaningful way, prosecuted for that type of thing? So it's just sort of, like, untraveled territory?

Stephanie

I think so. Bringing miso across the border, is that legal or illegal? What if someone's bringing it in huge, huge quantities to provide all over the US? Do you think that will lead to prosecution, and the answer was, we haven't seen that yet. So until they start prosecuting people for it, it's all uncharted territory. No one really knows what risk they're taking, I don't think.

Rebecca Grant

Stephanie technically retired a few years ago, but she's one of those people who can't sit still. She describes herself as a doer. And so she started working with this nonprofit that helps people access abortions, and she felt relieved every time she could help a client MacGyver a way around the obstacles. But sometimes there are obstacles that couldn't be overcome, at least not without moving mountains.

And Stephanie realized that sending people pills to take it home was a solution. This way, they wouldn't have to come up with the money or figure out child care or travel hundreds of miles to a clinic. And, unlike the websites that sell these pills, they wouldn't need a credit card. It could really help people without an ID or a bank account or who were running out of time.

So she decided to build out a shadow arm of her operation, all underground. When the nonprofit can't figure out another way to help someone, they give them Stephanie's encrypted email. There are actually people all over the country who do what Stephanie does, but no one really talks about it, even with each other.

Stephanie

It's very self-contained, like in the old days, the Soviet cells where you'd have the knowledge held by just a few. And I don't think I would ever be tortured for this information, but no one can tell how it's happening if no one knows.

Rebecca Grant

Stephanie is obsessive about covering her tracks, but she can't control everything, like this one time at the post office. She goes there every day to pick up the above board mail for her nonprofit, all the bills, the donations, that kind of thing. But a couple of years ago, somebody sent a package of abortion pills there that was meant for the shadow side. Stephanie assumes no one at the post office would notice or care.

Stephanie

They know me. They know my family. We all know everyone in the community. They let me know when I have packages. They text me or call me when I have a package. So one day, I was actually transporting a client from a clinic to their home, and I had just dropped them off. And I think I was in the parking lot just waiting for the next thing, and my phone rang, and it was the post office lady, who calls frequently.

And I said, OK, hi, post office lady, what's up? And she said, I need to talk to you, I need you to come in right now. And I said, I can't come in town, and she's furious and just upset. And she said, do you know Jane? And I said, Jane? I don't know Jane.

And she said, well, something was sent to your post office box in this person's name, and I opened it, and it has some illegal things in it. And I called the police, and they're here, and they want to open a case, and I want you to talk to them. So the police got on the speakerphone and said, do you know Jane? And I said, no, I have no idea who Jane is.

Rebecca Grant

Did you know who Jane was?

Stephanie

Yes, of course I knew who Jane was.

Rebecca Grant

And who was Jane?

Stephanie

Jane was one of my aliases.

Rebecca Grant

Stephanie tried to stay calm on the phone, but inside, she was freaking out. She's not really sure why, but the case didn't end up going anywhere. Maybe it was because her name wasn't on the package. After that, Stephanie made sure she never got abortion pills at that post office, but she still gets all her legal, boring nonprofit mail there, and she knows the same clerk is going to handle it.

Stephanie

I take great pleasure about sending things to her that are labeled abortion.

Rebecca Grant

Why?

Stephanie

I don't know. I guess it's petty, but I just want her, whatever her individual feelings are, to have to receive our abortion mail every day and hand it over to me. And every day, I go in there with a big smile on my face and say, I'm here to pick up my mail.

Rebecca Grant

Stephanie knows that a crackdown on self-managed medication abortion is coming, and she worries that someone could try to prosecute her for aiding and abetting an abortion, even for being an accessory to murder. But Stephanie is hopeful that those kinds of laws will be difficult to actually enforce. There are just too many people sending too many pills in nondescript envelopes through the mail. It would be impossible to intercept every one.

Stephanie

There's no way to limit it. Yeah, no, it's available. It's widely available. If there's a need, there'll be a way to get it if people know where to go. We just need to get the word out.

Rebecca Grant

Stephanie is optimistic, but she still prepares for the worst. Every day, she wakes up early. She showers, does her hair and makeup, and gets dressed so she's presentable just in case the police show up to arrest her.

Ira Glass

Coming up, scrambling to get ready for all the babies that are coming now that Roe is gone. That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio when our program continues. It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Today's program, The Pink House at the Center of the World. If you're just tuning in, we began today at the Mississippi clinic that was in the middle of the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe versus Wade. And then, from there, we headed out to other places shaken by this seismic change in our country. So far, we have been to Illinois, Missouri, Texas, and in this part of our show, we now head back to the state we started.

Act Six: The Babies 

Emma Green

I'm Emma Green. This is Act 6, The Babies. Babies are coming. No one knows exactly how many, thousands, tens of thousands. The pro-life movement has spent so long trying to get these babies here, to make abortion illegal, unthinkable, and now the movement has declared its next mission. They have to take care of these women. They have to take care of these babies.

In Mississippi, Anja Baker is the woman running point on all these babies. She's this super intense 27-year-old who's been fully dedicated to the pro-life movement since she was 15. Her dad's white. Her mom's Mexican-American. She's a Catholic convert.

On her left shoulder, she's got a tattoo of a giant white rose, a tribute to a German woman who resisted the Nazis. On the top of her right foot, she's got another tattoo of these tiny little footprints the size of a 22-week-old's, about the youngest age a baby can survive being born.

Anja Baker

And a lot of times it kind of freaks people out [LAUGHS] because that's not what they were expecting. And so when people are like oh, yeah, that's my tattoo, you know-- I remember talk-- run into a girl who was like, oh, yeah, I've got a tattoo in the same spot. And she was like, what are your tattoos about, and I basically was like, abortion and the Holocaust, and she was like, mine's a butterfly.

Emma Green

[LAUGHS]

Anja Baker

I like butterflies.

Emma Green

[LAUGHS]

Anja Baker

So my tattoos have no chill, basically.

Emma Green

[LAUGHS]

I met up with Anja in Jackson. She took me on a tour of the post Roe world that she hopes to build.

Emma Green

So, Anja, we'll meet you over there.

Anja works for a national pro-life group called Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. More than any other organization, they can take credit for this moment, for the careful political strategy that led to Roe falling. And now, they want to help all these babies, but they're not quite ready.

For example, Anja's job is to create this online directory for Mississippi, a website of every kind of resource a new mom and baby might need, everything from diapers and formula to addiction treatment and housing help.

She doesn't include anyone, therapists, OB-GYNs, any organization who might help a woman get an abortion. I followed Anja around just four days before Roe got overturned, and her directory was still a draft. The goal eventually is to have a version of this in all 50 states. Right now, two are live.

Anja Baker

I'm assuming he's in here. This is the resource center. Looks like they're sorting donations there.

Emma Green

The first stop on our tour was a church that was stockpiling donated baby stuff.

Thomas

We put crib mattresses up top. You can see the pack and plays there. There's two of those, and then the shelf right over, there's two strollers, I believe, and then there's some bed rails. And then over here--

Emma Green

Next, we visited these two pro-life activists in Jackson who brainstormed with Anja how to get more churches activated to join Anja's mission, to do more practical stuff to help women.

Monica

As an African American woman--

Emma Green

One of them, Monica, mentioned she's one of the few Black women who protests outside the Pink House, the abortion clinic in Jackson.

Monica

--just feel like I'm chosen.

Emma Green

Anja's excited to talk to Monica, in part because she wants the pro-life movement to reach more Black women.

Anja Baker

Do you envision this at Black churches, like, predominantly Black, not just the diverse churches? And if you do, how do you-- is anyone coming to mind? Are you getting ideas?

Monica

I am. I am over here like--

Emma Green

Anja is a fix-it kind of gal, and, to her, the task ahead seemed straightforward. There were 3,559 abortions in Mississippi in 2020. She interprets this like a lot of other pro-lifers do, that the only reason these abortions happened was because women felt powerless, like they had no other option.

Anja Baker

So often, a different decision would be made that felt more empowering to her if she had information, resources, knowledge, emotional support. And I think, OK, there's an equation here. There's a woman who didn't expect to be pregnant but technically does want to stay pregnant, but this is missing.

Emma Green

This, meaning some practical resource.

Anja Baker

Which could equal life. And so I thought, OK, so I can help with that gap.

Emma Green

Did you ever spend time thinking about the other scenario, which is the woman who doesn't technically want to stay pregnant?

Anja Baker

Yeah, but I find so often with the women who did not want to be pregnant, a lot of times it still comes down to an idea that she has about what it means for her, that she will lose her scholarship, that she will lose her job, that she will not be able to ask for leave, that she will be kicked out of her parents' house. Fill in the blank. A lot of the time, it's still that even if the idea of pregnancy doesn't excite her or wasn't something she was really looking forward to anytime soon.

Emma Green

Anja is the kind of person who is looking forward to having kids. But even then, the reality of it has been complicated. She's a youngish mom with two sons, a toddler and a 14-month-old with special needs.

Her younger son Herschel needs to be nursed every four hours and can't sit up on his own. So any time Anja has to travel for work, like today, she needs to bring along a whole entourage of caretakers. Over the course of the day, we meet a baby sitter, Katie, Anja's mom, Cecilia, and her husband Nate, who holds Herschey and pats him on the back as we head from one meeting to the next.

Nate

We got the support team here.

Anja Baker

She comes after 2:00. He does rocking when it gets out of hand. I do the nursing.

Nate

Medicine prep.

Anja Baker

Medicine prep, yeah. We did the medicine early this morning. Yeah. Yeah, OK. Well, let's go.

Emma Green

Nate follows in his white Jetta with Herschey as we drive an hour and a half out to Meridian, Mississippi to a place called the Center for Pregnancy Choices.

Anja Baker

Hello, precious folks.

Emma Green

It's a pregnancy help center, or what's often called a crisis pregnancy center, these places where women can get ultrasounds and diapers and moral support. The pro-life world has had these for decades, in part to try and convince women not to have abortions.

These are places where Jesus looms large. It's not like they're government agencies. But lately, state legislatures like the one in Mississippi are doling out millions of dollars to these centers. This is the safety net they're imagining for women who are pregnant.

Sara

So there's a poster in the bathroom that says, are you safe at home? Has anyone in your home ever used words or actions to make you feel unsafe? Do you have--

Emma Green

A bubbly white woman named Sara shows us closets full of baby gear and flyers for women interested in getting their GED, and she takes us down the hall to a room with a blue sofa where women can come and talk about what they're dealing with.

Sara

So this is that safe space I was telling you about, and these are Preggie Pops. So if you decide to eat a candy, it'll help you with nausea.

Emma Green

Visiting all of these places, it struck me how big this task will be, how big the need is. The women giving birth in Mississippi tend to be poor. The state is the worst in the country when it comes to infant mortality and child poverty. Anja is not daunted by this. We talked about it in the car.

Emma Green

Do you ever feel like you're asking too much of women?

Anja Baker

Explain.

Emma Green

Like, I guess a thing that I'm stuck on is it feels different to be like, this is hard, when it's something that you wanted versus something you didn't want.

Like, in the post Roe world, there are going to be women who are having babies who, before, would have chosen abortion and going through all of those really hard things also. And it just-- I don't know, it feels like it adds this layer that is just so heart wrenching. And I guess I wonder what you would say to them.

Anja Baker

I really think that that is how life is, whether it's a pregnancy or somebody you love cheating on you or losing a job or your parent dying early. These are all-- I could go on, but these are things that happen to you that are immeasurably hard, that if anybody could choose for it to not happen to them, they would.

If they could time it differently, they would, but these are things that happen, and people do get pregnant. And once there is a pregnancy, there is a life. So that life cannot be justified to be ended, period.

Emma Green

When Anja imagines this new world, the world after Roe, it seems so clear to her. The need will be met. People will rise to the occasion. With enough phone calls and texts and emails and volunteer hours, she can fix anything. The babies are coming, and they'll be ready.

Act Seven: Back to Jackson

Ira Glass

Act 7, Back to Jackson. So we end our show today by returning to the clinic that was the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that overturned Roe versus Wade, the Jackson Women's Health Organization in Mississippi. If you remember from the beginning of our show, the day of the Supreme Court decision, they were overwhelmed with phone calls, people hearing the news and wanting to schedule abortions.

And at first, they were turning people away. But the way Mississippi law works, the ban on abortion in the state wouldn't begin for at least another 10 days, which meant they had at least 10 days when they'd still be open and could perform abortions. Maisie Crow picks up the story from there.

Maisie Crow

The day Roe was overturned, remember, Shannon, the director, was in New Mexico trying to open the new clinic, Pink House West, and her sister Nita was running things in Mississippi. Around 10:00 in the morning, they get on the phone with Shannon.

Nita

Everybody here now.

Shannon Brewer

I'm trying to talk fast because I've got to talk a million people.

Maisie Crow

Shannon tells them, we have a month of appointments booked right now. I want you to call every one of those patients who are scheduled and get them all to come in during the next 10 days.

Shannon Brewer

Those are the ones that I want y'all to call.

Nita

And tell them what?

Shannon Brewer

Tell them that the thing just went down and they're not going to be open that week.

Maisie Crow

Maybe they couldn't make any new appointments, but they could honor the ones they had.

Brooke

See if they come in tomorrow.

Nita

They're not going to be open. OK, OK. First week of July. OK. OK, we got it. OK, we fill it up.

Shannon Brewer

Fill it on up.

Nita

OK.

Shannon Brewer

And call me back. [INAUDIBLE]

Maisie Crow

They decide they'll stay open for extra hours, and they'll come in on days they're usually closed.

Nita

Can Molly and Stephanie come in, because they was off tomorrow? We gonna need help.

Brooke

She said, can y'all come in tomorrow.

Molly

I'll come in.

Nita

Molly said she'll come in.

Brooke

Jackson Women's Health, hold please.

Maisie Crow

And then, everyone gets back on the phones, calls everyone with appointments on the books and asks, can you come in sooner? How about tomorrow? How about Sunday?

Derenda Hancock

12 and 2?

Molly

12 and 2.

Stephanie

12 and 2.

Derenda Hancock

OK. So we got a whole day tomorrow.

Brooke

Basically.

Nita

A whole day. Just keep going.

Derenda Hancock

Yeah.

Maisie Crow

By the end of the day, they'd rearranged more things, called in other doctors, and even found a way to start booking new patients again too.

Derenda Hancock

This should be fun. Yeah. [LAUGHS]

Maisie Crow

For the Pink House, which had for so long been uncloseable, this is what closing looks like, a fight.

Brooke

When you check out, the receptionist is going to give you this slip of paper. It's your appointment reminder slip. It has your return date, return time--

Maisie Crow

For the rest of the day, patients are shown into treatment rooms as usual. A doctor does the counseling session the state mandates with patients who come in for an abortion.

Doctor

Morning, ladies.

Women

Morning.

Doctor

Glad you guys got in here OK. I know you guys are here for an abortion. The state wants me to scare you guys and tell you there's a risk of breast cancer related to abortion. There isn't. So now I've told you. You can forget it.

[LAUGHTER]

So there's a 24-hour law in Mississippi in terms of waiting. I can't offer you anything today. I guess you're aware the Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade. So this clinic will be closing down very shortly.

I can take care of you guys tomorrow. So if you're having the pill treatment, do not waste any time. Come back tomorrow, OK? If you need surgery, check with the front desk. They'll tell you what your options are, OK? Any questions, ladies?

Credits

Ira Glass

Nikki Lane singing a cover of "When My Morning Comes Around," which she recorded for us. Our program was produced today by Zoe Chase and Alix Spiegel and edited by Laura Starecheski.

The people who put together today's show include Jane Ackerman, Elna Baker, Sean Cole, Michael Comite, Andrea López-Cruzado, Aviva DeKornfeld, Chana Joffe-Walt, Kyla Jones, Seth Lind, Tobin Low, Miki Meek, Michelle Navarro, Stowe Nelson, Nadia Reiman, Ryan Rumery, Alissa Shipp, Lilly Sullivan, Jessica Suriano, Christopher Swetala, Matt Tierney, Julie Whitaker, and Diane Wheeler.

Our managing editor is Sara Abdurrahman. Our senior editor is David Kestenbaum. Our executive editor is Emanuele Berry. Movie legend Carol Kane agreed to be the voice of our pill smuggler in Act 5 today. Maisie Crow's movie about abortion in Mississippi, which follows the Pink House and Shannon Brewer, is called Jackson. You can find it on HBO Max.

Special thanks today to Mary Ziegler, Rebecca Curry, Andy Gipson, Clarke Forsythe, Elizabeth Nash, Diane Derzis, Javonne Brewer, Anna Wolfe, Larrison Campbell, Julie Lynn, Colleen McNichols, LaQuetta Cooper, Kawanna Shanon, Kelefa Sanneh, Jason Rosenbaum, Priska Neely, Mallory Carroll, Elisa Wells, Jill E. Adams, Pam Whitehead, Chloee Weiner, the National Abortion Federation Hotline, and Will Davis.

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There's videos, lists of favorite shows, tons of other stuff there too. Again, ThisAmericanLife.org. This American Life is delivered to public radio stations by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange. Thanks as always to our program's co-founder Mr. Torey Malatia.

You know, he has squirrels at his house, in his garden, front yard, doesn't like them. Gets kind of intense about it.

Derenda Hancock

Stay out of the fucking driveway!

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass. Back next week with more stories of This American Life.

[MUSIC - NIKKI LANE, "WHEN MY MORNING COMES AROUND"]