Mississippi’s last abortion clinic sues to block state law that may close its doors
Jackson, MS, November 29, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Attorneys for Mississippi’s only abortion clinic once again sued in federal court Wednesday to block a state law that may force the facility’s closure.
Lawyers representing the Jackson Women’s Health Organization complain that the center’s abortionists have been unable to secure admitting privileges at local hospitals, despite repeated requests for access.
A state law that took effect in July requires hospital admitting privileges for those who perform abortions. The law also says anyone performing abortions must be a board-certified OB-GYN. The law’s supporters say it is intended to protect women’s safety and reduce the number of abortions performed in the state.
“This legislation is an important step in strengthening abortion regulations and protecting the health and safety of women,” said Governor Phil Bryant, who signed the legislation last April. “As governor, I will continue to work to make Mississippi abortion-free.”
“I believe life begins at conception and I think a lot of Mississippians do as well. If this legislation causes less abortion, then that’s a good thing,” said Representative Sam Mims, who originally sponsored the bill.
Currently, 11 states require abortionists to maintain local hospital admitting privileges. These states include Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.
Wednesday’s court filing is not the first time the clinic has tried to get a judge to block enforcement of the law. The clinic first filed suit just before the law was originally set to take effect, on July 1. At first, U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan put the law on hold, but by mid-July, he decided to let the law move forward and see if the clinic could comply with the new regulations.
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State health officer Dr. Mary Currier filed a sworn statement in federal court back in July that showed the clinic would have ten months to comply with the law’s requirements and exhaust its administrative appeals with the Health Department before losing its license. If the clinic does lose its state license, it will then get even more time to appeal the decision in state court. In the meantime, Judge Jordan has blocked any civil or criminal penalties against the abortion center and its employees during this transition period.
“The clinic has had ample time to become compliant with this new legislation,” said Rep. Sam Mims, who originally sponsored the bill. “We believe the law should be enforced.”
In August, abortion facility lawyers argued that requiring admitting privileges for abortionists “effectively gives local hospitals veto power” over the facility’s ability to operate. They complained that Crossgates River Oaks Hospital in Brandon and Woman’s Hospital in Flowood refused to grant admitting privileges to two of the facility’s abortionists.
According to court papers, both hospitals wrote in their denials: “The nature of your proposed medical practice is inconsistent with this Hospital’s policies and practices as concerns abortion and, in particular, elective abortions,” adding it “would lead to both an internal and external disruption of the Hospital’s function and business within this community.”
More than 2,000 abortions are performed in Mississippi every year, and the Jackson clinic has said its providers perform almost all of them.
Currently, they can abort babies up to 16 weeks gestation. If the facility is forced to surrender its license for inability to comply with the new safety requirements, women who want elective abortions will have to travel to Louisiana, Tennessee, or Alabama to get them.
Studies indicate a longer travel time decreases the number of abortions.
It is unclear how quickly the court might act on the newest filing by the abortion clinic. If the facility is shut down next year, Mississippi will be the only state in the U.S. without an abortion clinic.
Leaders of the pro-life group States of Refuge, which focuses its energy on states with only one abortion clinic, is planning a rally and prayer vigil in Jackson on January 20-23 to mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and pray for the facility’s closure.