Miss. Gov. Bryant Signs Bill Aimed at Closing Last Abortion Clinic in State

April 17, 2012 — Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) on Monday signed into law a bill (HB 1390) that could force the state's only abortion clinic to close, the Los Angeles Times reports (Fausset, Los Angeles Times, 4/17).

The law, which takes effect on July 1, will require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and be board certified in obstetrics and gynecology.

Diane Derzis -- who operates the sole abortion clinic, Jackson Women's Health Organization -- said that although all three physicians at the clinic are ob-gyns, only one has admitting privileges at a local hospital. The clinic already has an agreement allowing the transfer of patients to a nearby hospital, she said (Wagster Pettus, AP/Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald, 4/16). Derzis has noted that it would be difficult for some of the clinic's doctors to obtain admitting privileges because they live out of state (Los Angeles Times, 4/17).

Derzis accused the bill's supporters of "hiding behind words like 'safety' and 'women's health'" to distract from their true intentions of closing her facility (Lee, Politico, 4/16). She plans to sue the state if the clinic cannot comply with the new regulations.

At a bill signing ceremony, Bryant said he was not worried about potential legal repercussions. "If it closes that clinic, then so be it," he said, adding, "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."

According to the AP/Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald, it is not clear whether the law will end the availability of abortion care in Mississippi, as physicians who perform fewer than 10 abortions procedures monthly or 100 annually do not have to comply with its requirements (AP/Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald, 4/16). However, Wayne Slocum, vice chair of the Mississippi section of the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said that Jackson Women's Health Organization is probably the only facility that provides abortion care in the state (Los Angeles Times, 4/17).

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards denounced the law, saying it is "based on a political agenda, not medical necessity" (Politico, 4/16).