State Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, emphasizes the differences between himself and his party primary opponent Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann during the Scott County Republican Rally in Forest, Miss., Tuesday, July 18, 2023. The two men are locked in a contentious primary, with campaigns trading barbs in television ads and at campaign events. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
A pro-Chris McDaniel SuperPAC released an ad accusing Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann of playing a role in one of Mississippi’s first abortion clinics. Hosemann took off the gloves in response, calling McDaniel a “coward” and “pathological liar.”
With less than three weeks remaining before primary elections in Mississippi, the Republican battle for Lieutenant Governor between incumbent Delbert Hosemann and State Senator Chris McDaniel reached peak ugliness this week.
On Tuesday, a new pro-McDaniel SuperPAC, “Invest in Mississippi,” launched an ad accusing Hosemann of serving as a director and vice president of one of the first clinics in Mississippi to provide abortions.
Hosemann denied the claim. In firing back, he called McDaniel a “pathological liar” and a “coward.” The sitting Lt. Governor accused the Ellisville Senator of defaming him and his faith. Hosemann is Roman Catholic. Historically, the Catholic Church has been staunchly and consistently pro-life.
SuperPACs technically operate independent of candidate’s campaigns, but McDaniel and his supporters have certainly parroted the claims made in the ad.
The political arena is not a court of law, but let us attempt to examine the conflict the way a court would–looking first at the “evidence” used in support of the allegation and then to the “evidence” in support of the defense.
The essence of the McDaniel camp’s claim is that Lt. Gov. Hosemann was listed with the Secretary of State’s Office as a “director” and as “vice president” of a clinic that at some point began providing abortions.
In 1976, three years after the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, South Jackson Woman’s Clinic, P.A. was opened. The Secretary of State’s Office has long listed two directors for the clinic. The first, Dr. Larry Lipscomb, was a physician at the clinic. The second, Delbert Hosemann, was then a young lawyer.
Hosemann was identified as both a “director” and as the clinic’s “vice president.”
South Jackson Woman’s Clinic was a full-service OBGYN. It is undisputed that at some point it began providing abortion services to patients. What is less than perfectly clear is when.
Dr. Beverly McMillan had her own abortion practice in Mississippi in the 1970s. McMillan ceased providing abortions in 1978, and ultimately became a fervent pro-life advocate. She currently serves on the Board of Pro-Life Mississippi.
In an interview with Magnolia Tribune, Dr. McMillan’s recollection was that Dr. Lipscomb began providing abortions at South Jackson Woman’s Clinic in the mid-1980s. She recounted protesting the clinic in the mid- to late-80s.
A medical malpractice lawsuit filed in 1988 claimed that Dr. Lipscomb botched an abortion in 1987, precipitating a series of events that resulted in injury to the pregnant mother. In that same time period, Clarion Ledger articles covering clinic protests identified South Jackson Woman’s Clinic as one of three abortion providers in the state.
Two new documents recently appeared on the Secretary of State’s website related to the South Jackson Woman’s Clinic. The first, a filing from 1989 still listed Hosemann in typeface as “director” and “vice president.” However, his name was manually crossed out with a line through it. The second, the clinic’s filing from 1990, did not list Hosemann.
When questioned about the newly uploaded documents, the Secretary of State’s Office indicated to Magnolia Tribune that it periodically receives outside requests to upload archived documents and that it could not pinpoint the source of the request to upload the 1989 and 1990 filings.
Other than the 1976 incorporation of South Jackson Woman’s Clinic, and the 1989 and 1990 filings recently uploaded, the only other documents on the Secretary of State’s website pertain to the 1991 dissolution of the clinic. This leaves a thirteen-year gap in filings that might otherwise help clear up the nature and duration of Hosemann’s involvement with the clinic.
The essence of Lt. Governor Hosemann’s defense to the claim is that he was mistakenly listed on paperwork filed on behalf of the South Jackson Woman’s Clinic, his involvement was limited to legal work in the early days of the clinic, and he had no involvement with the clinic by the time they began providing abortions.
Lt. Gov. Hosemann’s alleged involvement in South Jackson Woman’s Clinic first emerged in his 1998 bid for Congress. At the time, Dr. Lipscomb wrote a memo explaining that Hosemann provided legal counsel between 1977 and 1981.
According to an Associated Press report, Lipscomb explained “[a]t the time the Clinic provided obstetrician and gynecological services. These services did not include pregnancy terminations as the Clinic did not offer that procedure until several years later.”
The memo reportedly alluded to a mistake in the filing with the Secretary of State’s office. “I am saddened that his [Hosemann’s] name was mistakenly listed on documents filed with the Secretary of State.”
The Articles of Incorporation for the clinic now available on the Secretary of State’s website do not identify Hosemann as a director. Instead, they list F. Paxton Bond, M.D., Nancy Bond, Larry R. Lipscomb, M.D., and Francis Lipscomb as directors for the clinic. Dr. Bond and Dr. Lipscomb are listed as he clinic’s “incorporators.”
This raises an interesting question about what document was first filed that did identify Hosemann as being involved, because it is not presently on the Secretary of State’s website. There is only the electronic record showing he was identified, and the recently uploaded 1989 filing which shows him being manually crossed off as director and vice president.
In defending against the claim, Hosemann also points to his endorsement by National Right to Life. Hosemann campaign consultant Casey Phillips took to Twitter in the wake of the ad with a quote attributed to National Right to Life President Carol Tobias:
The false story of Delbert Hosemann’s involvement with an abortion clinic has been around for decades and has been found to be completely untrue. Delbert Hosemann is pro-life and has always worked well with the National Right to Life Committee. It is time to put an end to the false rumors about Delbert Hosemann and abortion. Mississippi deserves a pro-life Lt. Governor and Delbert is that man.
The Rebuttal & Verdict
Sources within the McDaniel camp have questioned the reliability of the memo from Dr. Lipscomb. They point to when the memo was released–in the heat of a race for Congress seven years after the clinic closed–and note that Lipscomb supported Hosemann’s candidacy in that race. The implication of this line of argument is that the content of the memo could have been political cover.
Each person can decide for themselves what to make of both the claim and the defenses. I suspect that decision will have less to do with “evidence” and more to do with jurors existing preference in the race. Hosemann supporters will see this as a low brow attack. McDaniel supporters, proof that Hosemann is not “conservative.”
In the end, the overarching jury verdict is not too far away.