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Clinic open for business despite anti-abortion rally - The Clarion-Ledger

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Clinic open for business despite anti-abortion rally
By Leah Rupp
leah.rupp@jackson.gannett.com
And Jimmie E. Gates
jgates@clarionledger.com
Barbara Gauntt/The Clarion-Ledger

For the first time since anti-abortion activists began amassing in Jackson, the state's only abortion provider was open Wednesday for business while protesters rallied outside.

The Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic, located at 2903 N. State St., has opened its doors this week at 6:30 a.m. and closed by 9 a.m. to try to avoid the protesters, said Susan Hill, president of the Raleigh, North Carolina-based National Women's Health Organization, which owns the clinic.

Members of the anti-abortion group Operation Save America arrived before the clinic shut down for the day Wednesday.

Groups on both sides of the issue mingled peacefully on the sidewalks near the clinic.

McCoy Faulkner of Raleigh, N.C., a security consultant for the National Women's Health Organization, said demonstrators verbally abused patients and staff as they entered and exited the clinic. Faulkner has been on the scene every day to videotape the protest for the clinic's record.

"We just share the gospel of Christ, and to a lot of people the gospel of Christ becomes offensive," said the Rev. Flip Benham, director of Operation Save America.

The Jackson Women's Health Organization became the last abortion provider in Mississippi two years ago. It sees roughly 4,000 women a year, Hill said.

"We knew it was coming," Hill said of the scheduled eight-day protest that began Saturday in Jackson. "We just want to stay quiet and do our work and not get into a scuffle with anyone."

A city permit issued to Operation Save America limits the protest to 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., six people and only on the sidewalk on the side of the clinic. The group has exceeded the limits every day.

Also Wednesday, members of Operation Save America fanned out in small groups to 23 locations in the metro area, which Benham said represent "the gates of hell" and areas of influence. The Clarion-Ledger was one of the locations.

Instead of their normal midday rally, anti-abortion protesters gathered at noon in Smith Park for lunch. Pedestrians and other downtown workers seemed oblivious to the group.

Charlene Toten of Magee, a downtown worker, said of both sides, "It's freedom of speech. People ought to be able to voice their opinion as long as it is done in a rational and calm manner."

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