JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI, April 5, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – A bill requiring higher standards for those who perform abortions passed the Mississippi state senate on Thursday, leading its defenders and opponents to contemplate a future where the state is free from abortion.

The state’s governor and lieutenant governor have already pledged their support for the bill, which requires every abortionist in the state to be board certified as an OB-GYN and to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. This agreement allows them to refer women to a local hospital following botched abortions or other complications.

“This legislation is an important step in strengthening abortion regulations and protecting the health and safety of women,” said Governor Phil Bryant, a Republican, after the house passed the bill on Wednesday.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said the bill “should effectively close the only abortion clinic in Mississippi.” He added, “This is a strong bill that will effectively end abortion in Mississippi.”

Gov. Bryant agreed he longs for the day Mississippi is “abortion-free.”

Felicia Brown-Williams, regional director of public policy for Planned Parenthood in Hattiesburg, was less jubilant. “I am sick about this,” she said.

Barbara Whitehead, president of Mississippi Right to Life,  told LifeSiteNews.com the state’s abortionists should welcome this bill to raise the industry to a “higher standard.”

“It just makes common sense to have people with an expertise” when a facility performed specialized medicine, she said.

Despite widespread media fears the state’s only abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, will be forced out of business, Whitehead and its owner both doubt this bill will shutter it.

“I honestly don’t think in itself it will close it,” Whitehead told LifeSiteNews.

Its owner, Diane Derzis, said all three abortionists on her staff are OB-GYNs, and one has admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Demonstrators outside the clinic were approached on Wednesday by a man wielding two hunting knives, who slashed a banner they held as they read the Bible.

Abortion advocates agreed to fight the higher health standards and patient protections. Jordan Goldberg, state advocacy counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, has said “a legal challenge would certainly be possible.” 

The same day the state senate passed this bill, two other pro-life bills died through parliamentary procedure.

One bill required abortionists to allow mothers to hear an unborn baby’s heartbeat before undergoing the procedure.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow noted with approval on her blog that State Senator Hob Bryan, who chairs Senate Judiciary Committee B, said he would not waste his time on bills that were “obviously unconstitutional.”

A second banned the practice of “webcam abortions,” in which an abortionist prescribes RU-486 by teleconference, sometimes from another state, without examining the patient.

Whitehead warned the situation can be deadly for “a woman with an ectopic pregnancy who does not know it is an ectopic pregnancy, and who cannot be inspected by a doctor who is not there.”

She said the bill’s defeat was “disheartening in Mississippi, one of the most pro-life states in the country.”

State Senator Bryan killed both bills by refusing to bring them up for a vote.

“We’ll bring this up again next year,” Whitehead promised.