In the past week, opponents of abortion rights were dealt a couple of pretty big blows. First, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a Mississippi law the Legislature passed in 2012 that required abortion clinics to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital for its board-certified OB/GYNs.
One member of the three-judge panel, writing for the majority, said the Jackson Women's Health Organization had "a substantial likelihood of success on its claim" that the law "imposes an undue burden on a woman's right to choose an abortion in Mississippi, and is therefore unconstitutional."
Days later, a federal judge in Alabama, which passed an identical law, followed the 5th Circuit decision and declared that state's admitting-privileges requirement unconstitutional.
There, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled that state lawmakers exceeded their authority in passing the requirement. As a federal judge had done in Mississippi two years ago, Thompson granted a temporary restraining order against implementing the law.
Despite these successes for the protectors of abortion access, the fights are far from over. Either state, where conservative Republicans are in full control of the executive and legislative branches of government, could appeal to higher courts and, possibly, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
They shouldn't. It's unclear how much money Mississippi has spent defending the abortion law for the past two years because the in-house lawyers from the office of the state attorney general—Democrat Jim Hood, who also supported the ill-conceived and ill-fated Personhood amendment of 2011—is defending the anti-abortion law.
Whatever the sum, the resources could be spent more effectively by boosting the AG's efforts in fighting domestic violence, sex trafficking, and police and political corruption.
Hood likes to play coy and say that his office merely represents the state's interest, but we've seen him take what he considers principled stances against the Republican leadership in the past.
It would be remarkable if Hood, the people's attorney, got involved over the Legislature's refusal to adequately fund public education or provide quality, affordable health-care coverage via Medicaid. (To Hood's credit, he did decline to participate in a lawsuit against Obamacare.)
Both would be a boon to Mississippi women who face myriad health and quality-of-life challenges. By the same token, proponents of such measures as the admitting privileges law, who purport to be so concerned about the health and safety of women, should refocus their attention on real sex-education reform in public schools and on Mississippi's college campuses. Last year, the Legislature directed community colleges and four-year universities to develop a strategy to slow unwanted pregnancies but provided no funding for the measure.
If our politicians are truly concerned about protecting women and children, they should abandon their relentless assault on abortion rights and tackle the real issues facing girls and women in this state.