Mississippi's Only Abortion Clinic Gets Reprieve--For Now

Mississippi's only abortion clinic, the Jackson Women's Health Organization, found itself the target of anti-choice legislators this year, who--after failing to ban abortion through the ballot---tried a back-door method to shut the clinic down, requiring its staff to gain admitting privileges at hospitals. For a while, it looked like Mississippi might be the only state in the union to have not a single abortion-providing facility. But a judge granted the clinic a reprieve, for now.

Reuters reports:

The law requires doctors who perform abortions to be board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology, and to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Supporters argue this is necessary to ensure women's safety.

U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan, in issuing a partial preliminary injunction, ruled on Friday that the clinic "will be permitted to operate lawfully while continuing their efforts to obtain privileges."

The ruling allows the new law to come into force "at least for now" but protects the abortion clinic - the Jackson Women's Health Organization - from any potential harm caused by the law, the judge wrote.

Yesterday, Robin Marty at RH Reality Check explained the tightrope Judge Jordan was walking:

If the doctors are able to get admitting privileges before the clinic closes, H.B. 1390 no longer presents the constitutional challenge to a woman's right to choose that it does if there is no place in the state that a woman could obtain a legal elective abortion. 

Jordan is in a legally difficult spot. A law that could be unconstitutional today may not actually be so in six months, when a doctor's privileges come through. Also, those privileges may never come through. Hospitals are given wide latitude in granting privileges and there's not much the court can do to compel them to be granted in this case. This situation requires Judge Jordan judge to decide beyond the initial legal aspects whether or not he believes the doctors will be able to get privileges, and whether or not he wants to set a precedent that could be used further down the road by other states to whom requiring privileges could close clinics but not leave the state completely absent of a provider. 

All these complex aside, each day the clinic can open its doors is a victory. Despite being besieged, Jackson Women's services remain available for women who desperately need them until the next round of the fight.

AlterNet / By Sarah Seltzer

Posted at July 14, 2012, 7:04am

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