U.S. Judge Blocks Mississippi Law to Stop Abortions

Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic won a reprieve with a federal judge temporarily blocking the implementation of a law the facility’s operators said would “effectively ban abortion” in the state.

The law, which was to take effect yesterday, requires physicians associated with an abortion facility to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and be certified or eligible in obstetrics and gynecology.

The Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the state’s only clinic providing elective abortions, sued in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Mississippi, to stop the state health department from enforcing the rules, saying it hasn’t been able to obtain admitting privileges for two physicians and the legislation is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan yesterday issued a temporary restraining order, blocking enforcement of the rules, until a July 11 hearing to determine whether a preliminary injunction should be issued.

“The act’s purpose is to eliminate abortions in Mississippi,” Jordan wrote, citing quotes from legislators submitted as evidence by the health organization. The judge noted the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects a woman’s right to choose to terminate her pregnancy and government regulation of abortions is allowed as long as it doesn’t impose an undue burden on the woman’s ability to choose.

‘Nowhere to Turn’

“The department’s actions jeopardize patient health, because they will effectively ban abortion in the state of Mississippi, leaving women with nowhere to turn in Mississippi,” the clinic said in its complaint.

Mississippi would become the first U.S. state without a dedicated abortion clinic, should the Jackson facility close. That would mark the most visible victory for the anti-abortion movement, which has fought to abolish the procedure in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing a woman’s right to have one.

Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves said on his website recapping accomplishments from the legislative session that ended last month that ‘this measure not only protects the health of the mother but should close the only abortion clinic in Mississippi.’’

When Republican Governor Phil Bryant announced he would sign the legislation, he said he would “continue to work to make Mississippi abortion-free,” according the complaint.

Voters in the state last year rejected a constitutional amendment that could have banned the procedure even in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment. The so-called “personhood” measure stated that life begins at conception.

The case is Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Currier, 12-00436, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Mississippi (Jackson).

To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Schneider in Sydney at jschneider5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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