'No Ill Will, But We're Suing'

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Virginia Schreiber

National eyes are on Mississippi's only abortion clinic—and efforts to shut it down.

— Mississippi's sole abortion provider is taking its fight against a new state law that endangers its existence to the federal courts.

On Tuesday, June 27, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on the Jackson Women's Health Organization's behalf asking to strike down a recent bill, House Bill 1390, requiring that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at a local hospital and be certified obstetrician/gynecologists.

Michelle Movahed, CRR's lead counsel, said the clinic had hoped to avoid litigation, but a series of actions by Mississippi state officials forced their hands.

"I don't attribute any ill will to anybody, but certainly the elected officials in Mississippi have been engaging in a really pronounced public pressure campaign to make (the state health) department use this as an opportunity to close down an abortion clinic," Movahed told the Jackson Free Press Wednesday.

Despite the clinic's diligence, it was "impossible" to comply with the new requirements by the law's July 1 effective date, according to the complaint. And because Jackson Women's Health is the last abortion clinic left in the state, Mississippi women seeking abortions will have nowhere else to turn if the law takes effect if the courts do no step in, the plaintiffs say in court documents.

Read the full press statement by the Center for Reproductive Rights and other clinic backers and counsel.

Nancy Northup, CRR's chief executive officer, said the organization has "been beating back Mississippi’s underhanded tactics to close the only abortion clinic in the state” for years.

“Mississippi lawmakers’ hostility to women and their reproductive rights does not give them license to violate their constitutional rights," Northup said in a statement.

In 2004, CRR challenged a law that would have required second trimester abortions to be performed in hospitals and ambulatory surgical facilities. A federal court ruled the law unconstitutional.

State Rep. Sam Mims, R-McComb, who authored the original bill, HB 1390, sent a letter on June 20 asking the Mississippi State Department of Health to start enforcing the law immediately. On June 25, in a letter clinic owner Diane Derzis, DOH said the clinic had to comply with HB 1390 remain licensed and operate in the state. Movahed said if the department had followed its normal rule-making procedure, the clinic would have had until mid-August to come into compliance.

To back up its claims about a concerted effort from state officials to shutter the clinic, the lawsuit sites Gov. Phil Bryant, who voted “work to make Mississippi abortion-free,” and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves who said up HB 1390's passage in the Senate could “end abortion in Mississippi.”

Bryant posted a statement on his website Wednesday vowing claiming that defending the bill would protect women's health. "Mississippi stands ready to vigorously defend House Bill 1390, which requires abortion providers to be certified OB/GYN physicians and have admitting privileges at a local hospital. This basic requirement goes to both the heart of women’s health care and protecting the lives of unborn children," he wrote.

Mississippi Department of Health spokeswoman Liz Sharlot said she couldn't comment on the lawsuit, but said the agency would enforce regulations at the abortion facility consistent with other health-care facilities.

"They're entitled the same process, and they will have that same process," Sharlot said.

Comments

scrappy1 2 years, 4 months ago

One of my friends outside Ms told me that if Ms provided free birth control to women then Ms wouldn't be leading the nation in teen pregnancy rates. I told him that Ms has free education through high school and we are at the forefront of school dropouts. So if teens didn't make better use of free birth control than they do free education then it would make no difference. Abortion is just cover up for previous bad choices. Why should I have to help pay for them?

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Samian 2 years, 4 months ago

The Mississippi law clearly violates established precedent under Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which prohibit states from putting "undue burdens" on abortion rights. The law clearly fails the litmus test.

It reminds me of the revenue stamp requirements of olden days, when in fact the revenue stamps were nonexistent.

This law effectively lets Mississippi hospitals become the arbiters and gatekeepers of access to abortion. It's an unfettered and unconstitutional restriction.

I have no doubt that the law will be tossed out in Federal courts.

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donnaladd 2 years, 4 months ago

Both you and your friend, scrappy, are engaging in overly simplistic logic. Neither statement alone leads to those conclusions. Nothing is that simplistic, but especially issues as complicated as school dropouts and unwanted pregnancy. I invite you to engage in a more thoughtful dialogue and encourage your friends to do the same.

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gwilly 2 years, 4 months ago

I hope the law is tossed out. The hysteria about abortion has drowned out the rights of women to have control over their bodies and their lives. If birth control and abortion are going the way of the dodo bird, society in general and the father of the child specifically should be obligated to support the mother and child for the first year of the child's life, and share the burden thereafter. Life is either precious or it isn't, and if it is, it is especially precious after birth. I just can't see how we can keep our blinders on and teach abstinence without birth control, and outlaw abortion without support for indigent mothers, and preach personal responsibility without taking personal responsibility ourselves.

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