JACKSON, MS—In an effort to make certain that physicians who perform the procedure are fully qualified to do so, a new state law passed Tuesday will require Mississippi doctors to climb an 18-foot wall before entering any medical facility providing abortions.
The Clinic Fortification and Physician Excellence Act calls for the construction of concrete barriers nearly two stories tall and 4 feet thick around all clinics offering abortion services, and for physicians working at these sites to scale such barricades unassisted, a landmark piece of legislation that supporters hailed as a victory for women’s health.
“No woman, in this state or any other, should ever receive care from a medical professional incapable of climbing an 18-foot wall,” said Governor Phil Bryant, adding that it was “ridiculous” that women had been living in a place where doctors could perform abortions without first surmounting an obstacle approximately three times their height. “Any physicians lacking the necessary upper body strength to pull themselves up and over an 18-foot wall have no business performing such a potentially dangerous procedure.”
“This law is shamefully overdue,” Bryant added. “I’m sorry the women of Mississippi had to wait so long.”
Authorization for the clinic walls reportedly sailed through the state legislature and was quickly signed by Gov. Bryant, despite failed amendments from a small group of Democrats that would have reduced the wall’s height and allowed doctors to use assistive devices such as ladders or grappling hooks. According to sources, only the planting of thick, thorny shrubbery along the base of both sides of the wall was removed from the final version of the legislation.
But while most conservative activists reportedly praised the new regulations, some suggested that a simple 18-foot wall may not be effective enough to ensure that only the most capable doctors could perform an abortion.
“These new requirements are a joke and are riddled with loopholes—I mean, there’s nothing stopping someone from taking a running start or using chalk to get a better handhold on the wall,” said Pro-Life Mississippi president Dana Chisholm, who characterized the walls as a watered-down version of a prior law passed in Arkansas that required doctors performing abortions to leap over a 20-foot-wide trench in a single attempt. “The message we’re sending to women in this state is that it’s perfectly okay for them to be treated in unsafe facilities staffed by people who did nothing more than hop over a glorified little fence.”
“There’s not even any spikes or broken glass at the top, let alone electrified razor wire—any old doctor can get up and over it in no time,” added Chisholm. “Honestly, why even have a wall at all, for crying out loud?”
At press time, abortion rights activists predicted that many Mississippi women seeking an abortion would travel to neighboring Louisiana to take advantage of that state’s more lenient laws, including mandatory face-to-face counseling to discourage them from having the procedure, a 24-hour waiting period, and a compulsory ultrasound, during which they will have the fetus verbally described to them, as well as have the option of viewing it on a nearby screen and listening to its heartbeat.