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Pro-life advocate reflects on 1998 closure of Gulfport abortion clinic

The Gulfport clinic closed in 1998 after it was bought by a church and turned into a Christian bookstore.
Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 7:51 AM CST
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SOUTH MISSISSIPPI. (WLOX) - Mississippi currently has only one abortion clinic in Jackson but that wasn’t always the case. In the 1990s, the state had two clinics.

The second one was in Gulfport and operated until a Gulf Coast church bought the property and turned it into a Christian bookstore.

Teresa Forrester was one of the big proponents of the move to close the Coast’s abortion clinic. Before the church bought it, she often stood outside the clinic on Three Rivers Road with signs to protest against the procedure.

“We got together and we started picketing. We provided services for the ladies, the mothers, who were wanting to have abortions,” she said. “We would show them what an abortion was by video. We’d explain to them what was going to happen. We would also give them options. We would pray with them and let them make their own choice, but give them options that they didn’t have to have an abortion.”

Over the years, some women did decide against abortion after meeting with the group outside the Gulfport clinic.

Protesters stand outside an abortion clinic in Gulfport in 1998. The clinic closed after it was...
Protesters stand outside an abortion clinic in Gulfport in 1998. The clinic closed after it was bought by a church.(WLOX File Video)

The clinic officially closed on March 2, 1998, after the building was purchased by Temple Baptist Church. Teresa was there when the church went into the building for the first time after it changed hands. WLOX has archival video of Teresa walking inside, her baby in tow.

“When we first went in there, I was holding my first child and I remember her crying, and the thought crossed my mind that she was the first child to cry out loud in that building. There had been many children cry, but not out loud,” said Forrester.

The pro-life advocate said her stance on abortion is deeply rooted in her faith.

“God creates life. It’s said in Jeremiah, ‘Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee. Before thee camest out of the womb, I sanctified thee.’ So, God creates life and God sanctifies, which means sets a purpose for life. So it’s important for us as Christians to protect life,” she said.

The Gulfport clinic officially closed on March 2, 1998, after the building was purchased by...
The Gulfport clinic officially closed on March 2, 1998, after the building was purchased by Temple Baptist Church and converted into a bookstore. (WLOX)

The Gulfport clinic’s closure was victory for Forrester and other pro-life advocates. Now, they are hoping for another win with Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

In the biggest challenge to abortion rights in decades, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Wednesday signaled they would allow states to ban abortion much earlier in pregnancy and may even overturn the nationwide right that has existed for nearly 50 years.

The justices led arguments that could decide the fate of the court’s historic 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion throughout the United States and its 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed Roe.

The outcome probably won’t be known until next June. But after nearly two hours of arguments, all six conservative justices, including three appointed by former President Donald Trump, indicated they would uphold a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

At the very least, such a decision would undermine Roe and Casey, which allow states to regulate but not ban abortion up until the point of fetal viability, at roughly 24 weeks. And there was also substantial support among the conservative justices for getting rid of Roe and Casey altogether.

While some Mississippians like Forrester are hoping for Roe v. Wade to be overturned, others believe it will be a devastating decision for women’s health.

“It’s really, really, really sad that we’re here now in 2021 and a case was argued before the Supreme Court this morning to overturn Roe v. Wade. We know abortions are safe and we also know that what 7-8 out of 10 people polled in American support abortion access and abortion rights,” said Michelle Colon with Sisters Helping Every Woman Rise and Organize.

Abortion would soon become illegal or severely restricted in roughly half the states if Roe and Casey are overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

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