This is the second installment in an occasional series on abortion.
The debate splashes across front pages as the pope compares abortion to hiring a hitman and Missouri’s last clinic fights to stay open. Activists file lawsuits while the South embraces bans once seen as too radical to pass.
Often, the arguments are abstract.
But an hour south of the Georgia border, at two buildings a few exits apart off Interstate 95, the swirling conflict arrives in real time, as women swing open the doors.
JACKSONVILLE — Across from a Popeyes on the crowded, flat University Boulevard, a half-dozen protesters in suspenders and straw hats cluster by a bus stop.
They clutch rosaries and tilt posters toward drivers headed for the powder blue building with tinted windows.
We are praying for you.
Pregnant? Let us help you.
The parking lot at A Woman’s Choice of Jacksonville is private, set back, removed from the whoosh of passing cars and the evangelism of strangers.
Still, sometimes women walk up the steps crying about the pictures of fetuses.
Six days a week, they enter the quiet cool of the one-story clinic and stoically fill out forms, if they haven’t already, noting birthdates and last periods. They sink into homey couches in the waiting room, next to boyfriends and aunts and best friends, here from one-night motels or just down the road. A tropical Glade plug-in makes the pale pink room smell like Hawaiian Punch. A TV plays Family Feud, or maybe The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Coffee is free. Abortion is a choice, explained by videos on an iPad.
A framed motto hangs by the door. “At this clinic we do sacred work that honors women and the circle of life and death.”
As patients walk beyond the front desk, a banner reassures: Good women have abortions.
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ABOUT THE REPORTING: Two facilities allowed Tampa Bay Times reporters inside, absent clients, to see places often glimpsed only from the outside. Read about an anti-abortion pregnancy center in Jacksonville.
It’s late one June morning, before the doctor arrives and patients with 12:30 p.m. appointments start filling the lot. A staffer sets out menstrual pads in the Maya Angelou operating room, then wheels a cart of sterilized speculums down the hallway, toward the room named for Wonder Woman.