July 2, 2012 — A federal judge late Sunday temporarily blocked enforcement of a Mississippi law that threatened to shut down the state's only abortion clinic, the New York Times reports (Santora, New York Times, 7/1). The new law, which was slated to take effect on Sunday, will remain on hold at least until a July 11 hearing (Phillips/Howell, CNN, 7/2).
The law -- challenged last week by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the clinic, Jackson Women's Health Organization -- requires doctors who provide abortion services to be board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and have admitting privileges at a local hospital. If the clinic failed to meet the requirements and was forced to close, Mississippi would become the only state without an abortion provider (Le Coz, Reuters, 7/1).
The lawsuit argues that the admitting privileges requirement is not medically necessary and is intended to force the clinic out of business (AP/Washington Post, 7/1). It notes that supporters of the new law have stated that their broader intention is to restrict abortion care. For instance, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves' (R) website states that the law "not only protects the health of the mother but should close the only abortion clinic in Mississippi," according to the suit.
Details of Injunction
U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Jordan said the plaintiffs "have offered evidence -- including quotes from significant legislative and executive officers -- that the act's purpose is to eliminate abortions in Mississippi." He added, "They likewise submitted evidence that no safety or health concerns motivated its passage. This evidence has not yet been rebutted" (New York Times, 7/1).
Although Mississippi Department of Health officials had planned to inspect the clinic on Monday, they no longer intend to do so, according to a department spokesperson (Reuters, 7/1).
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of CRR, said the "decision reaffirms the fundamental constitutional rights of women in Mississippi" and ensures that the clinic "can continue providing the critical reproductive health care that they have offered to women for the last 17 years."
Northup continued, "The opponents of reproductive rights in the Mississippi Legislature have made no secret of their intent to make legal abortion virtually disappear in the state of Mississippi," adding, "Their hostility toward women, reproductive health care providers and the rights of both would unquestionably put the lives and health of countless women at risk of grave harm" (New York Times, 7/1).
Mick Bullock -- a spokesperson for Gov. Phil Bryant (R) -- called the ruling "disappointing," adding that the governor "plans to work with state leaders to ensure this legislation properly takes effect as soon as possible."
State Rep. Sam Mims (R), who sponsored the legislation, said, "[W]e will speak with our attorneys regarding our game plan" (CNN, 7/2).