Last Updated:December 1 @ 07:57 am

Judge continues to block Mississippi abortion law

By Emily Wagster Pettus

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A federal judge on Wednesday decided to continue to block a state law that threatened to shut down Mississippi's only abortion clinic and make it nearly impossible for a woman to get the procedure in the state.

U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III temporarily blocked the law July 1 and extended that order Wednesday, though he did not immediately say how long it would last.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states can't place undue burdens or substantial obstacles to women seeking abortion. The state law would require anyone performing clinic abortions to be an OB-GYN with privileges to admit patients to a local hospital. The doctors at the clinic in Jackson do not have those privileges, and the clinic says the privileges aren't medically necessary.

Supporters of the law say it's designed to protect patients. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has said he hopes it will help make Mississippi "abortion-free."

The clinic, Jackson Women's Health Organization, says it has been unable to obtain admitting privileges for its two out-of-state OB-GYNs because local hospitals have not responded to their requests.

Admitting privileges can be difficult to get because hospitals might not grant them to out-of-state physicians, or hospitals with religious affiliations might not give them to doctors who perform abortions.

The clinic said it would face "irreparable harm" if the law were to be enforced because hospitals haven't said when - or if - they'll consider the admitting privileges. The clinic wanted the judge to keep the law on hold to see if its doctors can get the privileges.

"If they're denied or if the hospitals are dragging their feet, that's going to be more clear evidence that there's a substantial obstacle" to an abortion, clinic attorney Robert McDuff said.

The government said the privileges help protect patients by ensuring they have continuity of care if a woman needs to go to the hospital. They also note that while the clinic might have to wait to get hospital privileges, "inconvenience is not `irreparable harm.'"

The state attorney general's office declined to comment after the hearing.

The law was passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature. When the governor signed it, he said: "If it closes that clinic, then so be it."

The state's attorney had argued that any anti-abortion statements by elected officials were "weak evidence" that the purpose of the law was to prevent abortions.

Terri Herring of the Pro Life America Network lobbied for the law and attended the court hearing. After the judge's decision, Herring said the hospitals should deny admitting privileges for the abortion clinic's doctors.

"There's no vetting process for fly-by-night physicians who come in and perform abortions at the clinic," Herring said.

The clinic uses out-of-state physicians because in-state physicians generally don't want to face the social pressure of having protesters at their offices, homes or churches, clinic employees say.

Opponents of the law say any patient experiencing complications could receive immediate care from emergency room physicians.

The clinic for the past several years has also had a transfer agreement with a local OB-GYN who has hospital admitting privileges. He doesn't perform abortions at the clinic but provides backup help by agreeing to meet clinic patients at a hospital if there's an emergency.

Clinic owner Diane Derzis said since she acquired Jackson Women's Health Organization in 2010, no woman has had to be taken from the clinic by ambulance.

The U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 established a nationwide right to abortion. In 1992, the court's decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey upheld the Roe decision and allowed states to regulate abortions before fetuses are viable. But the 1992 decision also said states may not place undue burdens or substantial obstacles to women seeking abortion.

If the clinic closed, the closest clinics to Jackson are about 200 miles away, in Louisiana, Tennessee and Alabama.

Mississippi physicians who perform fewer than 10 abortions a month can avoid having their offices regulated as an abortion clinic, and thus avoid restrictions in the new law. The clinic's owner has said the clinic is unlikely to stay open and perform that few abortions per month. The Health Department said it doesn't have a record of how many physicians perform fewer than 10 abortions a month.

Clinic operators say almost all the abortions in the state are done in their building. They say in court papers that the clinic did about 3,000 abortions in 18 months.

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  1. BillzillaComment by Billzilla
    July 12, 2012 @ 1:18 pm

    This is not about a woman’s right to choose, or a woman’s health. No, it’s about money. The money that the owners of abortion clinics make by killing babies, plain and simple.

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  2. billwvComment by billwv
    July 12, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

    All the abortionists [baby murderers] have to hold to is the federal courts. Many Americans are fed up with this act of taking life from a viable human being.
    Thank you, Mr. Governor and Mississippi Legislature.

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  3. prairelivingComment by praireliving
    July 12, 2012 @ 5:58 pm

    I did a little research when I first saw this story to see what the law in Mississippi was regarding “Ambulatory Surgical Facilities” (ASF) that being any medical facility that performs surgeries that is not in a doctors office or hospital. I found that there is a document put out by MS called the “Minimum Standards of Operation for Ambulatory Surgical Facilities”

    Well, the law is VERY clear that all such facilites are required to have professional staff that is certified in the area of specialization or of the surgery being done. So, a ASF that specializes in Plastic Surgery must have a board certified Plastic Surgeon, a Hand Surgery Center must have a doctor certified in the appropriate type of surgery. That requirement is listed in 108.07 of the standards. It is also EXPLICITLY clear that all ASF must have a Patient Transfer Agreement with a local hospital (109.01 of the Standards).

    So, what we have here is an ASF who is not interested in following the rules and standards set forth by the state to protect all patients of all surgical procedures. It is certainly interesting to hear the abortion clinic people suggesting that they are trying to protect the “health” of women and then turning around and fighting the laws that would make women undergoing an abortion (which is surgery) have some protection. What if any other surgical facility said, “No we won’t comply because it is a hardship for our patients”? Would they be exempt? Highly doubtful.

    If the abortion provider wants to do this business then they need to abide by the laws that pertain to their type of business. This should never have even gotten to court.

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