Abortion clinic stays open on judge’s order

Law could close Mississippi’s lone provider

A federal judge on Wednesday left in place an injunction blocking a new law in Mississippi that could effectively shut down the state’s only abortion clinic, located in Jackson, Miss.

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel P. Jordan III extended the injunction but did not say how long it would remain in effect. The law, passed by the Republican-led legislature in April and made effective July 1, requires anyone performing an abortion to be a certified obstetrician/gynecologist with admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Doctors who perform abortions at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization are OB/GYNS, the clinic says, but they must travel from other states – and don’t have local admitting privileges. The clinic has said the law would cause “irreparable harm” because local hospitals have not said when, or if, they would grant privileges.

Critics of the law say it’s designed to make obtaining abortions difficult or impossible in Mississippi, in defiance of a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states cannot place undue burdens on a woman’s right to an abortion. The bill’s legislative sponsor, state Rep. Sam C. Mims, has denied that the law is an anti-abortion measure, saying it’s designed to protect women’s health by ensuring continuous care.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, who signed the bill into law, has said he hopes it makes the state “abortion free.” He has called the law “the first step in a movement, I believe, to do what we campaigned on: To say that we’re going to try to end abortion in Mississippi.”

The governor said when he signed the law: “If it closes that clinic, then so be it.”

The clinic performed about 3,000 abortions over the last 18 months, according to court papers.

If the clinic is closed, Mississippi would be the only state without a functioning abortion clinic. The nearest clinics are at least 200 miles away in Alabama, Louisiana or Tennessee.

In court Wednesday, the judge warned lawyers: “This is a court of law, not a political debate.”

Jordan, who granted the original injunction July 1, said he would review the Mississippi Department of Health’s new procedures outlining how the law would be implemented.

If Jordan does not make the injunction permanent while the clinic challenges the law’s constitutionality in court, the state could begin a 60-to-90-day administrative process to close the clinic for noncompliance.

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