Mississippi’s last abortion clinic faces closure: files desperate last-minute lawsuit
JACKSON, June 28, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Mississippi’s only abortion clinic has ask a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order against a new law, enforcing higher standards for abortionists, which stands ready to shut the facility down at the start of July.
Owner of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization abortuary, Diane Derzis, claims the new law is unconstitutional because it would effectively ban abortions in Mississippi “by imposing medically unjustified requirements on physicians who perform abortions.”
The law requires every abortionist in the state to be board certified as an obstetrician-gynecologist and to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. This 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 Republican Governor Phil Bryant.
When signing the bill into law on April 16, Governor Bryant said, “Today you see the first step in a movement, I believe, to do what we campaigned on – to say we’re going to try to end abortion in Mississippi.”
He added, “If it closes that clinic, then so be it.”
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In an interview in April Barbara Whitehead, president of Mississippi Right to Life, told LifeSiteNews.com it was common sense to require medical specialists to have “expertise in that field,” and to be able to send women to local hospitals in the case of botched abortions.
In announcing the lawsuit yesterday, Derzis said all three abortionists on her staff are out-of-state OB-GYNs, and only one has admitting privileges at a local hospital. She said the lawsuit, filed on behalf of the abortion clinic by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, is also asking for more time to comply with the new law.
“We have been attempting to comply with the law, but we just have not had adequate time for the privileges to come through, if they come through,” Derzis told Reuters. “We’ve not been turned down outright, except on a few hospitals that had religious beliefs that didn’t coincide.”
However, Republican Representative Sam Mims said the clinic has had ample time to comply, and that the law will withstand the legal challenge.
“It’s been over 70 days since Gov. Bryant signed this legislation,” Mims said. “For them to say we don’t have time, I just don’t buy that argument.”
Mississippi Health Department spokeswoman Liz Sharlot told The Associated Press the Jackson Women’s Health Organization will be inspected for compliance with the new law on Monday, July 2, noting that the abortion clinic has been aware of the law for months.
“We will be inspecting the facility as soon as the law goes into effect to ensure the facility is in compliance,” Sharlot said.
Sharlot explained if the clinic is found not to be in compliance, it will have 10 working days to submit a plan outlining how it would meet the requirements of the law.
Representative Sam Mims said he does not “want to give the facility 10 extra days to perform abortions” and is consulting attorneys on the legality of such a move, according to the Reuters report.