With restrictions tightening on abortion providers in Louisiana, New Orleans finds itself down to just one clinic performing the procedure.
More than 150 people gathered in New Orleans East on Saturday to pray that a clinic looking to open on Crowder Boulevard won’t double that number.
“We come from many different backgrounds of ethnicity, race, religion — different views on many, many things — but what brings us together today is that we value human life,” New Orleans Catholic Archbishop Gregory Aymond told the crowd, spanning Christian denominational lines in a rally organized by the Louisiana Black Advocates for Life.
The crowd at several points raised its hands to pray toward Deanz Health Care for Women at 5437 Crowder, which physician Rashonda Dean still has not opened for business after first applying to the state in April to get a permit to perform abortions there.
A New Orleans doctor has applied to perform abortions at a New Orleans East clinic, giving new fuel to a bitter ideological dispute and refocu…
Dean says opening the clinic would fill a critical need for women in the area, who currently are able to obtain an abortion only at the Women’s Health Care Center miles away on Gen. Pershing Street, where she used to work.
But the crowd Saturday, which included groups from the Gideon Fellowship, the Upperroom Bible Church and two buses of parishioners from Mary Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church, made clear they believe the clinic has nothing to do with women’s health.
“We’re not against the health of women. We want women to be healthy — physically, spiritually and emotionally,” Aymond said, adding that carrying a child to birth is part of that health.
Household of Faith Elder Lyndenet Johnson also had a similar message, albeit in a bit stronger language than the archbishop.
“What is the difference if your 16-year-old is shot on that corner over there and what if your 16-week-old is killed in that clinic?” Johnson said. “Murder is murder.”
Dean, though, said the issue isn’t so simple, and that the major accomplishment of Saturday’s rally was to make what is already a tough decision for women even more difficult.
“I think what these protesters don’t understand is there are many people who come to us because they need (an abortion),” Dean said.
She added she plans to continue fighting to open the clinic on Crowder, even though the political climate in Louisiana is against her.
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Gov. John Bel Edwards, an anti-abortion Democrat, is currently entangled in a pair of high-profile federal lawsuits over abortion access in the state. His administration is fighting to get the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that a Planned Parenthood clinic on South Claiborne Avenue isn’t entitled to state Medicaid money even though it does not perform abortions. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also is set to rule on the state’s delay in issuing the Planned Parenthood clinic an abortion permit, a process the organization calls a “sham.”
Edwards, a Catholic, also signed a law requiring doctors performing abortions to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles. That law was struck down by a federal district court but was later upheld by an appellate panel.
The governor was not present at Saturday’s rally, but those there were with him in his fight against abortion, even some who were once on the other side of the issue.
Bobbie Jones was an example of this, as she held up a sign reading, “I regret my abortion.”
Jones said she traveled to Wisconsin from the Chicago area in 1972 to get the procedure, which was legal in Wisconsin but not nationally until the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.
College-educated, teaching kindergarten and with a boyfriend who wasn’t ready to take on the responsibility of raising a child, Jones said she wanted the child but “wanted my own thing more.”
She now wishes she could go back.
“I wouldn’t do it (again). No matter what,” Jones said.
Her hope now is that she can share her story with young women, hoping to change their minds before they make a decision that might lead to a lifetime of regret.
Aymond views that approach — reaching out to those who support the right to abortion and who might seek one — to be one of the most important missions for anti-abortion groups.
“We have to engage in respectful conversation,” he said.
Staff writer Jessica Williams contributed to this report.