Diane Derzis is the owner of the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi.
Through botched abortions, dozens of pro-life laws providing women the protection for their medical health her facility ignores, and lawsuits stopping the state from having her abortion practitioners get admitting privileges at local hospitals, Derzis has kept the Jackson Women’s Health Organization going.
Derzis is certainly no stranger to legal problems. Last year she was ordered to shut down her New Woman All Women abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, after inspectors found 76 pages of violations following the hospitalization of three patients in one day for abortion complications.
As she was in the process of losing her dangerous Birmingham clinic, Derzis filed suit to block the new Mississippi law. She received an injunction that extended the deadline for compliance while she sought hospital privileges for her three out-of-state abortionists. That deadline passed on January 11, 2012, without JWHO’s abortionists obtaining hospital privileges.
Now, Derzis, in a flattering profile in a local news outlet, gives a reason why she is fighting so hard to keep Mississippi’s last abortion business going: God told her to keep killing babies in abortion.
“If they think they’re going to make me feel badly about what I do … not gonna happen,” said Derzis, a 59-year-old Virginia native who has lived in Alabama for decades.
Earlier this month, outside Derzis’ clinic in Mississippi’s capital city, police officers tried to keep a couple dozen protesters and clinic supporters apart. Derzis stood on the sidewalk as the Rev. Philip “Flip” Benham, one of her most vocal critics, asked her if she’d repent and said he would pray for her.
“I just love prayers. I’m the glad recipient of prayers,” Derzis said, looking past Benham.
Just as protesters say they are following God’s will by praying outside clinics and trying to talk women out of abortions, Derzis says she, too, is led by divine guidance to provide women a safe place to terminate pregnancies.
“I feel like God wants me to do this job,” said Derzis, who has a raspy smoker’s voice and a penchant for brightly painted fingernails and chunky jewelry.
She started working as an abortion clinic counselor shortly after the first clinic opened in Alabama in the 1970s.
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Derzis talks openly about the abortion she had when she was 20, newly married and in college.
She said didn’t want children, and knew immediately she wanted to end the pregnancy. Derzis said her mother told her she’d regret it, but she hasn’t. She said she was about 12 weeks along when she had the procedure, and the doctor was gruff and disrespectful.
“I thank God every day I had that abortion,” said Derzis, who later divorced and doesn’t have children. “It was not a great experience, but you know what? I had a safe abortion. And that’s what counts.”
Someone definitely needs a lot of prayer.