JWHO owner Diane Derzis doesn't believe the new regulations are necessary.
Photo by Trip Burns.
On the same day that a federal judge heard arguments in the ongoing controversy over a new law aimed at abortion doctors, the Mississippi State Department of Health quietly rolled out new regulations, including those governing abortion clinics.
After the Legislature adopted a new law that requires abortion physicians to be board certified and have admitting privileges at a local hospital, the State Health Department--which licenses health facilities--had to issue new rules.
MSDH communications employee Margaret Cooper said the rule changes came at the state health officials' regular meeting and that officials make all needed changes at the first meeting of the new fiscal year, which was July 1.
The previous rules stated: "The members of the medical staff shall have like privileges in at least one local hospital; however, in the case of a Level I Abortion Facility, at least one physician member performing abortion procedures in the facility must have admitting privileges in at least one local hospital."
The new rules make minor changes, stating: "Each member of the medical staff shall have like privileges in at least one local hospital. In the case of an abortion facility, the facility must comply with all state and federal laws and regulations."
The fact that the new rules had been promulgated seemed to catch Judge Jordan and attorneys for the Jackson Women's Health Clinic by surprise at the hearing yesterday afternoon. After more than two hours of discussion, Jordan declined to rule from the bench and extended the temporary restraining order he issued last week so that he could review the rules.
JWHO owner Diane Derzis doesn't believe the new regulations are necessary. Last fall, when the clinic came under threat of closure from the failed Personhood Initiative, Derzis vowed to hire limousines and private jets to ensure Mississippi's women had access to abortion. Derzis said after the hearing that her position remains the same.
Rep. Sam Mims says his clinic bill isn't about politics, but about protecting women.
"We have a commitment here. We're not going to leave the women in a lurch," she said.
When they weren't pronouncing the law's potential to end abortion in Mississippi, backers of the law insisted that requiring doctors to have the privileges is medically necessary, something the clinic disputes.
Steven H. Aden, the Washington, D.C.-based senior counsel for the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defending Freedom (until last week, it was called the Alliance Defense Fund), said yesterday that while women deserve access to high-quality abortions, the new law would protect women's health and safety.
Aden said the Mississippi Attorney General's office hired him as a consultant: however, Jan Schaefer, spokeswoman for Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, said in an email that Aden is not being paid and is serving as a volunteer to provide background in the case.
Tanya Britton of Pro-Life Mississippi echoed Aden's remarks. Outside the courtroom, Britton said doctors should be required to have admitting privileges so they don't have to "dump" patients in hospital emergency rooms.
"(The) law that was passed was a law passed by a duly elected Legislature," Bitten said. "(The) expectation is that those laws should be upheld."
Additional reporting by Victoria Sherwood.
7/12 Correction: In a previous version of this story, Margaret Cooper's first name was misspelled and identified her as a spokeswoman for MSDH. The above story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of her name. We regret the error. The story was also updated clarify her job title as an employee in MSDH's office of communications.