Partial Victory in Campaign to Save Mississippi’s Lone Abortion Clinic
By Elana Kessler
UPDATE April 16: The Center for Reproductive Rights reports a partial victory for its legal advocacy to keep open the state’s only reproductive health care provider offering abortions! Today a federal court ruled that “Mississippi state officials cannot enforce a requirement designed to shut down” the Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Nancy Northup, the Center’s director said, “While the women of Mississippi may be able to breathe a collective sigh of relief today, this fight is far from over. ” The Center’s legal challenge to the law’s constitutionality continues.
The Jackson Women’s Health Organization is Mississippi’s last abortion clinic. And the Mississippi legislature and Governor Phil Bryant are trying to close it. Leading the charge to protect the clinic is the Center for Reproductive Rights. The Center is not only representing the clinic in court to keep it open, but also heading the social media campaign to generate public support from around the country to keep the clinic open.
The Center has launched a virtual March on Miss, encouraging participants to show their solidarity with the Jackson Women’s Health Organization and the rights of women in Mississippi. Among the ways individuals can participate is by replacing their Facebook or Twitter profile picture with the March on Miss image.
Stealth attack on access to abortion
Last April, Governor Bryant signed a law that would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Unfortunately, all seven of the local hospitals denied admitting privileges to the Jackson clinic. On April18, the clinic has an administrative hearing before the department of health concerning their license being revoked due not being able to comply with the law.
As the Center for Reproductive Rights has explained, the motivation behind the law has little to do with safeguarding women’s health and everything to do with outlawing abortion:
The key provisions of the law are the medically unjustified requirements that any physician providing an abortion be a board-certified or eligible OB/GYN with “admitting privileges.” Admitting privileges are not easily come by under any circumstances but more importantly, such a requirement gives hospitals the power to decide whether abortion is even available in the state. And there’s no medical reason for this requirement: an abortion is among the safest medical procedures—less than half of one percent lead to major complications—and most of those few complications can be addressed in an outpatient setting.
Window still open to block the law
There is hope. The federal judge’s ruling on the Center’s motion for a preliminary injunction may come before April 18. If granted, the Mississippi Department of Health would be forbidden from enforcing the anti-choice law.
The outcome of this battle will resonate outside Mississippi. States like Alabama are following Mississippi’s lead. The Alabama legislature passed a bill last Tuesday that could potentially shut down all five of the state’s abortion clinics.
Go to the Center for Reproductive Right’s website to learn more.
Elana Kessler is an Alliance for Justice intern. She is a junior majoring in political science at American University and a board member of AU Students for Choice.