Mississippi law can go forward but can’t close state’s last abortion mill, judge rules
JACKSON, July 16, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – A judge ruled that the new Mississippi law that threatens to close the state’s only abortion clinic can go forward – but the state cannot impose any penalties against the clinic’s owner, and it will only be considered constitutional if the state’s mothers do not lose access to abortion.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan III ruled Friday that House Bill 1390, which required all abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital in case of complications, could now go into force. However, state officials would have to give the out-of-state abortionists at Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO) more time to see if they can gain such access.
“The act will be allowed to take effect, but plaintiffs will not be subject to the risk of criminal or civil penalties at this time or in the future for operating without the relevant privileges,” because the bill would do “irreparable injury” to the clinic – and that would make it hard for Mississippi women to obtain an abortion, Judge Jordan ruled.
He worried allowing penalties would have “a chilling effect” on the clinic workers’ willingness to continue offering the procedure.
The law’s constitutionality could be assessed after the clinic tired to adjust itself to the new legal strictures, he said.
“The judge has proposed a new legal doctrine: A dangerous abortion clinic is better than no abortion clinic,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. “We beg to differ…If a clinic has unsafe operations that endanger patients and violate the law, then it makes no good sense to keep it open.”
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“If a woman is going to have an abortion and if people who perform abortions say they really care about the health of women, then they should want the best standard of care,” said Pro-Life Mississippi spokeswoman Tanya Britton.
The law’s sponsor, Republican State Representative Sam Mims, said the bill was necessary for “the improvement of health care for women.” State lawmakers have cited such shoddy practices as the unsafe administration of RU-486 and having untrained staff perform medical procedures. Bruce Elliot Norman, who worked at JWHO, was on duty when three women were rushed to the hospital from botched abortions on January 21.
But Derzis’ lawyers from the Center for Reproductive Rights argued the bill targeted their client’s business and would deny women a constitutional “right” to abortion.
Seeing the new bill would close her Mississippi franchise, Derzis filed a lawsuit in late June against the bill, which was to go into effect July 1. Judge Jordan temporarily agreed to stay the law, allowing Derzis to continue “business as usual.”
The clinic currently performs nearly 2,000 abortions a year; it would have to reduce the number of annual abortions to 100 to avoid the law’s health standards.
“We will remain vigilant in our fight to ensure the clinic isn’t subject to penalties that would force its doors to close and deprive Mississippi women of their constitutionally-protected rights,” Nancy Northup, the Center for Reproductive Rights president and CEO, said.