Appeals court saves last Mississippi abortion center from closure
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 7/29/14, 04:35 pm
A federal appeals court panel ruled today that a Mississippi law that would close the state’s only abortion facility is unconstitutional.
The three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its 2-1 ruling in a case involving the state’s 2012 law, which required all abortionists at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO) to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. Two abortionists at the facility were unable to get privileges at Jackson-area hospitals.
The ruling appears to directly contradict a March decision by the same court that upheld a Texas law requiring abortionists to have hospital admitting privileges. But the difference has to do with geography and the availability of abortions in the two states.
The Texas law would have caused some clinics to close, but not all. Women would have had to drive farther to get an abortion, but, “an increase of travel of 150 miles for some women is not an undue burden” on their constitutional right to an abortion, the court wrote in its opinion. But the Mississippi law would have closed the state’s only abortion center.
“Mississippi may not shift its obligation to respect the established constitutional rights of its citizens to another state,” the court wrote.
Pro-life advocates say the law was more than just an attempt to shutter abortion facilities. The staff at the Jackson center was known for practices that endangered women’s health.
“This case is really about whether the courts will compel the State of Mississippi to allow abortion clinics to continue subjecting women to below standard care,” Operation Rescue President Troy Newman told LifeNews.com. “Pregnant women are currently being treated as second-class citizens and are being denied the same high standard of care that everyone else expects. However, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization can’t and won’t raise their standards for the safety of their patients.”
Operation Rescue has documented numerous safety violations at JWHO and at a Birmingham, Ala., facility, which shares the same owner, Diane Derzis. A judge ordered the Alabama facility to close in August due to health code violations and the hospitalizations of several patients who received abortions there.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.