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Judge Keeps Miss. Antiabortion Law on Hold for Now

Judge Keeps Miss. Antiabortion Law on Hold for Now

July 12, 2012 —U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Jordan on Wednesday extended an injunction against a new Mississippi law that threatens to close the state's only abortion clinic, the Los Angeles Times reports (Zucchino, Los Angeles Times, 7/11).

The law requires that doctors who provide abortion care be board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Although the clinic's three doctors are board certified, two live out of state and do not have admitting privileges.

Jordan -- who temporarily blocked enforcement of the law on July 1, the day it was slated to take effect -- gave no indication of when he might issue a final ruling (McWhirter, Wall Street Journal, 7/11). If Jordan grants the clinic's request to put the law on hold for a longer period, the case eventually would go to trial (Wagster Pettus, AP/Washington Post, 7/11).

Operators of the clinic -- Jackson Women's Health Organization -- had expected it to be shut down on July 2 for failing to comply with the new law. If the clinic closes, Mississippi would become the only state without an abortion provider (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/9).

Wednesday's Hearing

Wednesday's hearing largely avoided constitutional issues and focused on whether the clinic would face an immediate threat if the law took effect, the New York Times reports.

Lawyers from the Mississippi Attorney General's Office said the enforcement process could take months, which would be a "reasonable time" for the clinic to come into compliance and request hearings or appeals. They noted that the clinic has applied for admitting privileges at seven local hospitals and that closure would only result if those requests are denied.

Clinic attorneys argued that if its employees continue to perform abortions during the compliance period, they would be in "knowing violation" of the law and could face prosecution or revocation of their medical licenses.

A state lawyer said the Mississippi Department of Health had approved new rules on Wednesday morning for implementing the law. Jordan said he would consider the rules before making a decision (Robertson, New York Times, 7/11).

Reaction

Kay Scott, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said in a statement that Wednesday's "decision means a woman in Mississippi will continue to be able to make her own personal health care decisions in consultation with her family, her faith and her physician -- at least for the time being."

Dana Chisholm, president of Pro Life Mississippi, expressed disappointment that the injunction was not lifted. "We have maintained from the beginning that this law is about women's health, and no organization or person should be allowed to be a danger to women just because they do so in the name of abortion rights" (Barnes, Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 7/11).