New Abortion Law: Medically Justified?

Diane Derzis, the owner of the clinic, speaks with MPB after the hearing.

Diane Derzis, the owner of the clinic, speaks with MPB after the hearing.

Is it medically necessary for doctors to have hospital admitting privileges? The question lies at the heart of the ongoing fight between Mississippi's last abortion clinic and state officials who created new regulations that include requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges. It could shut the facility down.

Diane Derzis, who owns the Jackson Women's Health Organization off North State Street, said only the clinic's backup doctor, who does not perform abortions, has hospital admitting privileges while the clinic's other two doctors have not been able to obtain privileges. She also said the clinic has applied to seven hospitals within a 25- to 30-mile radius from Jackson.

State officials who pushed for the mandate say the law is intended to protect women who might suffer complications while having an abortion. On the other side is the Jackson Women's Health Organization, which sued the state in federal court to block the law from going into effect. In court filings, the clinic's attorneys called the regulations "medically unjustified" and feared its doctors might be open to criminal prosecution while its paperwork for admitting privileges was processed.

Then, there's the truth. Jonathan F. Will, director of the Bioethics and Health Law Center at Mississippi College School of Law, said hospitals grant admitting privileges as a measure of quality assurance, but that it's unnecessary for an abortion doctor to have admitting privileges to get a patient into a hospital if she needs to go.

"Let's say there's an emergency at my house, and I slip and fall and break my leg or something worse happens. My wife doesn't have to have admitting privileges for me to be able to call an ambulance and get into a hospital," he said. "(Emergency room) doctors have admitting privileges, and if you need to be admitted, you'll be admitted."

Likewise, if someone complains of stomach pains to their family doctor, who diagnoses the cramps as appendicitis, the family physician is unlikely to be the one who performs the appendectomy at the hospital.

Because the U.S. Supreme Court prohibited outright abortion bans in Roe v. Wade, abortion unfriendly state legislatures have increasingly turned toward piling regulations on the clinics as a way to slow them down. Doing so is permissible, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey in 1992—up to the point the restrictions cause an undue burden and substantial obstacles to women who want to get abortions.

Will said the Casey ruling's "wishy-washy" language provides states more wiggle room to implement laws like Mississippi's.

In his ruling handed down late last week, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Jordan allowed the state law, which Gov. Phil Bryant signed in April, to take effect while the clinic seeks admitting privileges and before he determines if the law causes irreparable harm to the clinic.

"Given the highly charged political context of this case and the ambiguity still present, the Court finds that there would be a chilling effect on the Plaintiffs' willingness to continue operating the Clinic until they obtained necessary privileges. Therefore, an irreparable injury currently exists," Jordan's order states.

"As for the other factors for injunctive relief, the Court finds that there exists a substantial likelihood of success on the merits and that the threatened injury—the closure of the state's only clinic creating a substantial obstacle to the right to choose—outweighs any harm that will result if the injunction is granted. This is especially true in light of the Defendants' promises that they have no intention to pursue civil or criminal sanctions at this time."

JWHO's operators have maintained all along that the new regulations grew out of a desire of elected officials to reap political benefits from shutting down the state's last abortion clinic.

At a two-hour-long hearing last week, Jordan heard arguments from the clinic and the state. The state attorneys defending the new law said the Mississippi governor and lieutenant governor's statements about the law eliminating abortion in the state shouldn't matter because they did not author or vote on the controversial legislation, HB 1390.

Jordan found the statements relevant "considering they came from the governor who signed the bill and the presiding officer over the Senate." In his July 1 order, Jordan questioned the motive of the bill's backers—pointing out that they seem more focused on eliminating access to abortion, a constitutional right, than in protecting the health of women.

At the July 11 hearing, state attorneys urged Jordan to look only at the bill's language for its intent, and not at public officials' language about its motive.

Rep. Sam Mims, R-McComb, who sponsored HB 1390, took issue with the plaintiffs' characterization that political gamesmanship was at the heart of the anti-abortion bill and noted that it passed with bipartisan support.

Will, the law professor, agrees with the state that it doesn't matter if officials said they want to end abortion in Mississippi. The only standard is whether the new law represents an "undue burden" or "substantial obstacle" to women seeking abortions.

"That's the test," Will said. "Does (the law) do that or not?"

Email R.L. Nave at rlnave@jacksonfreepress.com.

Comments

scrappy1 2 years ago

What are the abortion rates for blacks and whites at this for profit abortion clinic in Jackson? Nationally blacks make up about 13% of the population and according to the CDC and US Census blacks have 38% of abortions nationally. So in Mississippi where blacks make up close to half the population, what is the rate?

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donnaladd 2 years ago

scrappy, I don't know that that would be available. It sounds like personal medical information.

However, the more pertinent question might be an economic one: How many people choose the clinic because they can't afford the abortions in private offices that Pro-Life Mississippi seems to leave alone. I can't get a straight answer on why they're not targeting abortions that more well-to-do women, regardless of race, can afford.

This whole thing feels a whole lot like economic discrimination on top of an attempt to attack women's constitutional rights. Can it really be true that they think abortion is only "murder" when done in a clinic?

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Ventana29erRider 2 years ago

Clearly, the only place in the country where race is an issue is Mississippi. All medical offices are for-profit. All doctors (myself included), work for profit.

The judge was right to block this ridiculous law. It is NOT medically necessary for a doctor to have hospital admitting privileges. The law is an attempt to block a legal right to an abortion. It is not about "protecting women." Only an idiot would think it's about protecting women.

Anyone who needs emergency care can go to any emergency room where ER doctors have admitting priveledges.

The example in the article sums it up accurately: "Let's say there's an emergency at my house, and I slip and fall and break my leg or something worse happens. My wife doesn't have to have admitting privileges for me to be able to call an ambulance and get into a hospital," he said. "(Emergency room) doctors have admitting privileges, and if you need to be admitted, you'll be admitted."

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multiculturegirl 2 years ago

Scappy I find it racist to try to put an additional burden of guilt on women of color for accessing abortion by saying they are participating in genocide. No one is heaping that guilt at the feet of white women. I will not go round and round about how abortion numbers in MS are indeed higher for African American women, so what? What drives that is a lack of health care access and poverty not because the Jackson Women's Health Org. is on a campaign to kill black embryos.
This abortion is black genocide argument is a ploy by the anti-choice side to get blacks to join their cause. Historically black churches have not taken a public stand on choice and many have supported a right to choose so it was WHITE PEOPLE in the movement who came up with this garbage. I would be more inclined to believe that people like Roy McMillian sitting with his black genocide poster was worrying about black women and babies if he supported programs that actually help them once their born or didn't harass black women in scenes reminiscent of angry white protesters outside of schools being integrated. (I am speaking specifically of him following black women to their cars while shouting in their ears).
I am done with this race based argument about abortion. You don't like abortion don't have one. If your so concerned about black fetuses worry about why MS has infant mortality rates in some parts of this state for black infants that are equal to parts of the third world.

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goldeneagle97 2 years ago

I would be more inclined to believe that people like Roy McMillian sitting with his black genocide poster was worrying about black women and babies if he supported programs that actually help them once their born or didn't harass black women in scenes reminiscent of angry white protesters outside of schools being integrated

Money quote! I've yet to encounter any anti-abortion activist being asked what they would be willing to do for the unborn babies once they're born. A lot of them belong to groups that would seek to reduce or do away with the social programs designed to help them have a better life (education, health care, etc.).

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scrappy1 2 years ago

FYI; from the http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/USTPtrends.pdf, it does appear that out of each 1,000 women 15-19 that had abortions in Mississippi during 2005 5 were white non-hispanic, 17 were black and 7 were hispanic.

Nationwide abortions in 2005 among 15-19 year old women were 71,400 non-hispanic white, 73,530 black and 40,990 hispanic. In MS in the same group 270 were non-hispanic white. 930 were black and 10 were hispanic. The USA population of 15-19 year old women in 2005 was 6,433,446 non-hispanic white, 1,675,131 black and 1,676,465 hispanic. In MS the same group was 59,931 non-hispanic white, 48,104 black and 1,766 hispanic.

Just looking at the numbers, it sure seems that blacks are having abortions at a much higher rate than either non-hispanic whites or hispanics. Outside of information on http://blackgenocide.org/mission.html, I have not much better explanation. Other than programs that were supposed to help minorities have instead caused a major breakup of families were it is better financially to have single parents than two parent families.

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donnaladd 2 years ago

Scrappy, I don't know how to explain this to you: These women are exercising their constitutional right to choose to terminate a pregnancy. You insult every victim of actual genocide when you nonsensically try to compare the wholesale slaughter of a people to women choosing not to have a child for reasons that are none of your, or my, business.

As for why many people of color choose to have abortions—not that it's any of your business—you need to look not much farther than economic data: many people terminate pregnancies because they cannot afford to feed or clothe more children. Also, our poorest citizens have the least access to affordable birth control (and a lot of people are working very hard to keep it away from them).

All of those, and others, are issues we need to deal with societally to help lower the incidence of unwanted pregnancy as well as birth control, not to mention other societal problems.

However, it is not genocide.

Back to my original point, though: I do wonder why so many people who are against abortion, including elected officials, are only focusing on Mississippi's one clinic instead of private doctor's offices. That there's some hypocrisy.

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donnaladd 2 years ago

Also, does Guttmacher make it clear how many of those abortions it reports are from the clinic and how many in the privacy of doctors' offices? I'd guess most are from the clinic due to socio-economic issues but, of course, that would bolster my original point about economic discrimination.

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LoriG 2 years ago

70% of abortions are performed in clinics. There are actually precious few private doctors in Mississippi that are doing them. But let's address this "Black Genocide" argument that has been used by the pro-life movement to co-opt African Americans to their side. The fact of the matter is that AA girls/teenagers/women have less access to contraception and are most often in a public school system that is not teaching comprehensive sex education. Hence, a higher rate of out-of-wedlock pregnancy, hence a higher rate of terminations.

There is no conspiracy theory other than the one that people (WHITE PEOPLE) in power in Mississippi continue to insure that young African Americans have less chances at success in life. Low income clinics are located in areas where their clients are located--low income areas. We've discussed the link between the AA community and generational poverty ad nauseam, so I've no want to get into that. If you cannot see that direct lack of access to basic contraception and correct education regarding their bodies leads to higher rates of pregnancies and therefore higher rates of terminations, there's really nothing else I can do for you. You just willfully WANT to be ignorant. And do not link to that "black genocide" page. Its propaganda and offensive to anyone who knows what the hell they are talking about.

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scrappy1 2 years ago

"There is no conspiracy theory other than the one that people (WHITE PEOPLE) in power in Mississippi continue to insure that young African Americans have less chances at success in life. Low income clinics are located in areas where their clients are located--low income areas. We've discussed the link between the AA community and generational poverty ad nauseam, so I've no want to get into that."

Such a comment from a supposedly educated person! Are Whites rounding up these girls and forcing them to be impregnated? Exactly how is it that (WHITE PEOPLE) in power are committing these atrocities? Black and Hispanic pregnancy rates are very close to the same level per 1000, which is about three times the rate for non-Hispanic whites. The birth rate for blacks is 3 times that for non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics are 4 times that of whites. So these powerful (WHITE PEOPLE) are tending to shoot themselves in the foot because they will eventually be in the minority if what you say is true. Abortion shouldn't be a form of birth control. Free contraception will not work any better than free education has. There will always be a large percent of young people making wrong choices in the absence of two parent families and societies teaching that abortion is an acceptable form of birth control.

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tstauffer 2 years ago

Free contraception will not work any better than free education has. There will always be a large percent of young people making wrong choices in the absence of two parent families and societies teaching that abortion is an acceptable form of birth control.

That's right. Let's do nothing about the problem but blame people. Ideally, let's blame young people. Or... how 'bout this -- let's blame women. Hey... young women!

Oh, wait, I know... let's make even more things illegal. That should solve it. Works for drugs, right?

C'mon -- offer some solutions. Sitting there talking about two-parent families, ain't gonna cut it.

Remember, even Ronald Reagan was a crappy parent.

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brjohn9 2 years ago

Scrappy, I have to admit that I like your militant black nationalism. You hate abortion so much only because you want the black and brown people to be fruitful and multiply. That's a hardcore position, but I respect your passion.

However, you should probably revise parts of your statement. No one teaches that abortion is an acceptable form of birth control. Give me a quote, if it's so common, or people will know that's just inflammatory nonsense.

Your argument about "free" contraception and sex ed would be stronger if it was not directly contradicted by overwhelming evidence. Unplanned pregnancy and abortion are not timeless human failures immune to any educational effort. The United States has much higher teen pregnancy rates than other Western democracies. It also has higher abortion rates.

It is simply not true that sex ed and ready access to contraception make no difference. If you want me to cite studies, I'll bury you in them.

Still, I agree with you that we need more black babies. Mississippi without black people would be mostly scrappies, like Nebraska.

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goldeneagle97 2 years ago

Scrappy, I don't know what your obsession with the race of aborted babies are, but what are you and other anti-abortion activists willing to do to 1) prevent unwanted pregnancies that may result in abortions and 2) provide for the kind of care and needs the babies will have once they're born and beyond?

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rccrawford 2 years ago

There are scientific laws that make it clear that a person has a choice in life. They may choose to save a fetus or they may choose to save a born baby, child or adult. Choosing to save fetuses simply leads to the death of a born baby. http://www.naturalabortionlaw.com http://www.facebook.com/naturalabortionlaw.

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