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Judge Blocks Mississippi Law to Make it Abortion Free

by Steven Ertelt | Jackson, MS | LifeNews.com | 7/2/12 11:05 AM

State

A judge blocked a Mississippi law today that would make the state the first in the nation to be without an active abortion business if the only one in the state can’t comply with the common sense regulations it requires.

In April, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill putting new requirements on the books for abortion practitioners who operate in the state. They would have to be certified in the state as an obstetrician-gynecologist with admitting privileges at a local hospital in case a botched abortion requires a woman to be immediately hospitalized.

“This legislation is an important step in strengthening abortion regulations and protecting the health and safety of women,” Bryant said in a statement. “As governor, I will continue to work to make Mississippi abortion-free.”

Diane Derzis, owner of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization abortion facility, challenged the law in court when she determined that two of the three abortion practitioners she employees at the state’s lone abortion facility could not find hospitals willing to bestow admitting privileges.

Now, Jackson Women’s Health Organization will stay open a little while longer thanks to a ruling by U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan, who placed a temporary restraining order on the state law until a hearing can take place on July 11th.

In his decision Jordan wrote, “Plaintiffs have offered evidence — including quotes from significant legislative and executive officers — that the Act’s purpose is to eliminate abortions in Mississippi. They likewise submitted evidence that no safety or health concerns motivated its passage. This evidence has not yet been rebutted.”

“Though the debate over abortion continues, there exists legal precedent the court must follow,” Judge Jordan wrote.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, representing the Jackson Women’s Health Organization and Dr. Willie Parker, filed for immediate court action on June 27.

“Today’s decision reaffirms the fundamental constitutional rights of women in Mississippi and ensures the Jackson Women’s Health Organization can continue providing the critical reproductive health care that they have offered to women for the last 17 years,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The opponents of reproductive rights in the Mississippi legislature have made no secret of their intent to make legal abortion virtually disappear in the state of Mississippi. Their hostility toward women, reproductive health care providers, and the rights of both would unquestionably put the lives and health of countless women at risk of grave harm.”

The lawsuit filed Wednesday—which claims the law clearly threatens the health of women and deprives them of their constitutionally-protected right to decide when and whether to have children—requested both a temporary restraining order to block the DOH’s immediate enforcement of the new restrictions as well as further relief to block the new law completely on the ground that it has the unconstitutional purpose of banning abortion in Mississippi.

House Bill 1390 was signed into law on April 16 and was scheduled to go into effect on July 1. Supporters of the measure—including Governor Phil Bryant, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, and a number of state legislators— indicated they hoped the bill would protect women and unborn children.

In 2004, the Center for Reproductive Rights successfully challenged a Mississippi law that would have virtually banned abortions after the first trimester, requiring second trimester procedures to be performed in hospitals or ambulatory surgical facilities. A U.S. district judge declared the law unconstitutional, recognizing that it did nothing to protect the health and safety of women who choose abortion despite the state legislature’s claims.

In 1996, a federal district court struck down Mississippi regulations requiring physicians performing abortions to have completed a residency in ob-gyn in Pro-Choice Mississippi v. Thompson, stating that the state could not show “there is a reasonable medical necessity directed to preserve the woman’s health in requiring ob-gyn residency training for all physicians performing abortions.”

There were 2,297 abortions performed in Mississippi in 2010, according to the Mississippi State Health Department. Nearly all of those were performed on state residents.

Requiring abortion practitioners to have such admitting privileges is not new and the state of Indiana has pursued them because of problems with botched abortions.

Because so many women suffer from botched abortions that require immediate follow-up medical care, local officials approved what it said is a needed ordinance. It requires any abortion practitioners coming to Fort Wayne from out of town to inform a local hospital because they would not have proper admitting privileges to admit women who are victimized by failed abortions and need immediate medical care.

A judge issued a ruling that pro-life groups said was favorable for the much-needed law. Alliance Defense Fund attorneys representing Allen County say the court order the judge issued denies most of abortion practitioner George Klopfer’s motion to stop critical aspects of the new Patient Safety Ordinance.

ADF tells LifeNews.com that means those provisions can go into effect and that the door is open for other Indiana counties to enact similar legislation.

“A patient’s health is more important than an abortionist’s bottom line,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Steven H. Aden.

“The county simply can’t put the health and safety of patients at risk because one man wants to perform abortions without a sensible safety precaution that applies to all out-of-town physicians, not just abortionists,” he said. “The ordinance is very clearly designed to make sure that patients receive appropriate treatment in a medical emergency that can arise after an itinerant physician has gone back home and is no longer available to care for the patient.”

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Dr. Geoff Cly, a Fort Wayne gynecologist who has treated several of a local abortion practitioner’s patients after failed abortions, told the Fort Wayne newspaper at the time the bill is needed.

“I’m disappointed because patients are being harmed and the powers that be aren’t taking action to protect the women,” Cly said. “How can we hold him accountable like the rest of surgeons? Admission privileges are one way. If anyone has any other ways, let me know.”

According to Americans United for Life, a national pro-life group that promotes state legislation, abortion practitioners in eleven states are required to maintain local hospital admitting privileges. These states include Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.

Read a copy of the order at http://www.scribd.com/doc/98842929/Jackson-Women-s-Health-Organization-v-Mississippi