Only Abortion Clinic in Miss. Misses Admitting Privileges Deadline; Gov. Voices Support for 'Heartbeat' Bill

January 14, 2013 — The only abortion clinic in Mississippi missed a Friday deadline to comply with a 2012 law (HB 1390) that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and be board certified in obstetrics and gynecology, the AP/USA Today reports.

The Mississippi Department of Health will now set up an inspection of Jackson Women's Health Organization and decide whether the clinic should be closed for noncompliance. The clinic will be allowed to appeal if the department orders it to close (AP/USA Today, 1/11).

All of JWHO's abortion providers are board-certified ob-gyns (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/29/12). However, the doctors have been denied admitting privileges at every hospital where they have applied, according to clinic administrator Diane Derzis. The hospitals "were clear that they didn't deal with abortion and they didn't want the internal or the external pressure of dealing with it," she said.

Gov. Phil Bryant (R) said on Thursday, "My goal, of course, is to shut down [the clinic]."

In November, the clinic asked a judge for more time to comply with the law. On Friday, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood (D) filed a response to the clinic's request, saying the law should take full effect because it is designed to protect patients' safety (AP/USA Today, 1/11).

Gov. Bryant Voices Support for 'Heartbeat' Bill

Bryant on Thursday also expressed support for legislation (HB 6) that would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports (Lane, Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 1/10).

Speaking at a Pro-Life Mississippi luncheon, Bryant said a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as five weeks of pregnancy. The bill would allow exceptions in medical emergencies.

State Rep. Andrew Gipson (R), the bill's sponsor, introduced a similar measure in 2012 that died after Senate Judiciary B Committee Chair Hob Bryan (D) refused to hold a vote. Bryan said the bill was unconstitutional because federal law prohibits states from banning abortion that early in pregnancy.

The latest version of the measure is awaiting consideration by the House Judiciary B Committee, which Gipson chairs (Wagster Pettus, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/10).