Mississippi’s Last Abortion Clinic Remains Open!

A federal judge has blocked part of a state law that could have closed Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only clinic in Mississippi. Last year, the state passed a law that would have required that physicians at abortion clinics have admitting privileges at local hospitals. While the physicians at JWHO tried to comply with that mandate, no area hospital would grant the privileges. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which has represents the clinic, “the physicians responsible for vast majority of the clinic’s patients were not granted privileges by any of the hospitals in the area-with several hospitals refusing to even process the physicians’ applications, citing hospital policies on abortion care.”

Today’s ruling by District Court Judge Daniel P. Jordan III blocks the remaining forms of enforcement of this requirement, and prevents the state Department of Health from revoking the clinic’s license for being unable to comply with the admitting regulation. In his opinion, Judge Jordan wrote that “Closing its doors would — as the state seems to concede in this argument — force Mississippi women to leave Mississippi to obtain a legal abortion.” The judge also stated that Mississippi’s position in the case “would result in a patchwork system where constitutional rights are available in some states but not others.”

Bills, Bills, Bills

Congratulations, Mississippi, you’re a trendsetter. As anti-choice politicians push forward in their bid to close the last abortion clinic in the state, legislators in North Dakota are seeking to close their state’s only clinic, too. Yesterday, state lawmakers passed a bill that requires physicians providing abortions at the Red River Clinic in Fargo to have admitting privileges at area hospitals—the same tactic that is threatening Mississippi’s Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO).

The Red River clinic has often been the target of harassment and threats, and the physicians that work there don’t actually live in the state; in an arrangement similar to the one at JWHO, they travel from other states to provide abortion care. It’s too early to tell if hospitals in the Fargo area will grant these privileges, but as Amanda Marcotte pointed out in The American Prospect, “The chances of the doctors getting the privileges now are low, because hospitals don’t want to draw the same protests” as the clinic has faced.

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Update: Mississippi’s Sole Abortion Clinic Can Stay Open, For Now

Yesterday, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization received a welcome bit of good news. A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order that blocks enforcement of a new state law that requires that the clinic’s abortion providers have privileges at a local hospital.

The clinic has been working for several months to obtain these privileges, but the approval process and the amount of red tape involved have so far prevented that from happening. All of the clinic’s providers, who are board-certified OB/GYNs, travel to Mississippi from other states.

The next hearing will be held on Wednesday, July 11.

Quick Hit: Mississippi at Risk of Losing Only Abortion Clinic

The Jackson Women’s Health Organization – also known as Mississippi’s only abortion clinic – has asked a federal court to block a new law that could force the clinic to close. The law, which is set to go into effect on Sunday, July 1, would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The clinic is also requesting more time to try and comply with the law; clinic representatives say that they began applying for the privileges several months ago, but have been unable to obtain them at any hospital located within a half-hour drive from the clinic. Representative Sam Mims, who sponsored the bill, has asked the state’s Department of Health to deny the clinic a grace period.

Unsurprisingly, the law’s supporters claim that their intent is to protect women. Of course, the fact that all of the OB/GYNs currently working at the clinic – all of whom fly in from out of state – are board-certified hasn’t seemed to made an impression on these politicians, who have not been shy about also stating their opposition to abortion. Mims has said, “My hope is that the women that are making these choices will now choose life, that they will realize that life begins at conception,” and he’s far from the only prominent abortion opponent supporting the law. As the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Jackson Women’s Health, pointed out,

“Supporters of the measure have made it abundantly clear the regulations were intended to shut the clinic down:

  • Governor Phil Bryant, when vowing to sign the bill, said that he would “continue to work to make Mississippi abortion-free.”
  • The state’s Lt. Governor Tate Reeves stated that “the measure should effectively close Mississippi’s only abortion clinic” and “end abortion in Mississippi” when the bill passed the state Senate in April.
  • State Senator Merle Flowers told reporters that “There’s only one abortion clinic in Mississippi. I hope this measure shuts that down.”
  • State Representative Bubba Carpenter recently told a group of local county Republicans that “We have literally stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi,” and that “the other side [is] like, ‘Well, the poor pitiful women that can’t afford to go out of state are just going to start doing them at home with a coat hanger.’ That’s what we’ve heard over and over and over. But hey, you have to have moral values.”

Moral values, Bubba? Like ensuring that no woman living in Mississippi will be able to obtain safe, legal healthcare within state lines? And doing so with such a cavalier disregard for their health and well-being? That’s not moral. That’s not even in the same universe as moral. That’s pushing an agenda designed to interfere in private, protected health decisions – which actually seems pretty darn immoral.