Miss. Abortion Clinic Renews Legal Fight Against Law That Threatens Closure
November 29, 2012 — Mississippi's only abortion clinic on Wednesday renewed its request for a preliminary injunction to block a state law (HB 1390) that requires doctors who provide abortion care to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, CNN reports. If the court does not prevent state officials from enforcing the law, the clinic could close by February because it has been unable to comply (Phillips, CNN, 11/28).
In July, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Jordan lifted an injunction against the law, but he blocked the state from enforcing civil or criminal penalties against the Jackson Women's Health Organization while it tries to come into compliance. Jordan said that allowing the law to take effect would show whether the clinic's doctors could comply, which would affect its constitutionality.
The law also requires abortion providers to be board certified in obstetrics and gynecology. Although all the clinic's doctors are board certified, only one has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/5). If the clinic is forced to close, the closest facilities for women to obtain abortion services are more than 175 miles away, according to the AP/Washington Times.
In court papers filed on Wednesday, attorneys for the clinic argued that despite repeated attempts, it has been unable to obtain admitting privileges for its doctors at any local hospital.
The clinic told the court that two area hospitals, owned by the same company, both wrote in their denial letters that "[t]he nature of [the clinic's] proposed medical practice is inconsistent with this Hospital's policies and practices as concerns abortion and, in particular, elective abortions" and "would lead to both an internal and external disruption of the Hospital's function and business within this community" (Wagster Pettus, AP/Washington Times, 11/28).
It is unclear when the judge will issue a ruling on the request, according to Reuters (Le Coz, Reuters, 11/28).
Diane Derzis, the clinic's owner, said, "We've done everything we can to comply with this law and have been shut down at every juncture," adding, "Mississippi has effectively banned abortion in the state and we hope the judge declares [the law] unconstitutional."
Intent of Law Questioned
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said that antiabortion-rights lawmakers "were very clear" that their motive in passing the law was to shut down the state's sole abortion clinic.
State Rep. Sam Mims, the bill's sponsor, said lawmakers' intention was not to eliminate abortion, but if the law "causes less abortion, then that's a good thing" (CNN, 11/28).