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Last Mississippi Abortion Clinic Could Close in February

by Steven Ertelt | Jackson, MS | LifeNews.com | 11/28/12 7:02 PM

State

The last abortion clinic in Mississippi is struggling to stay open as it battles a law that could result in the Magnolia State becoming the first state in the nation to not have a single abortion business.

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.

U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan placed a temporary restraining order on the state law.

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.

Now, the abortion company is back in court filing for a preliminary injunction to delay enforcement of the law.

“We’ve done everything we can to comply with this law and have been shut down at every juncture,” Derzis told CNN. “Hopefully we’ll get a federal judge to see that the state of Mississippi has effectively banned abortion in the state and we hope the judge declares it unconstitutional.”

If the federal court does not grant the injunction, the abortion facility may close by February.

Rep. Sam Mims told CNN that the law protects women from botched abortions and leaving the abortion clinic open would place women’s health at risk.

“We’re protecting the health of women by giving them professional care,” he said.

“I believe life begins at conception and I think a lot of Mississippians do as well. If this legislation causes less abortion, then that’s a good thing,” Mims added.

CNN indicates the abortion clinic says it has not been able to secure hospital privileges at any of the 12 hospitals in the area.

In a denial letter filed as part of the court record, one of the facilities — Crossgates River Oaks Hospital in nearby Brandon — wrote that the nature of the clinic’s medical practice “is inconsistent with this hospital’s policies and practices as concerns abortion and, in particular, elective abortions… The nature of your proposed medical practice would lead to both an internal and external disruption of the hospital’s function and business within this community.”

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.