Appeals court overturns law that would close Mississippi abortion clinic

[JURIST] A three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] ruled [text, PDF] on Tuesday to overturn a 2012 Mississippi state law [text, PDF] that would have closed Jackson Women's Health Organization (JWHO) [official website], the only abortion clinic in the state. The law required that all physicians associated with an abortion facility must have admitting privileges at a local hospital. None of the three JWHO-affiliated physicians had such privileges. The state [official website] argued that closing JWHO did not impose and undue burden on women seeking abortions since they could travel to a neighboring state for the procedure. The majority opinion stated that closing the state's only abortion clinic would "place an undue burden on the exercise of the constitutional right [to have an abortion]" and would disregard Mississippi's duty, as one of the fifty states, to "protect the established federal constitutional rights of its own citizens." The lone dissenter on the panel argued that traveling to another state for an abortion is not an undue burden and if JWHO did close, it would be because the local hospitals refused privileges to the clinic doctors, not because of state action.

Various US state legislative officials have been busy pushing bills and signing laws similar to that of the now-defunct Mississippi abortion law. Last month Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal signed [JURIST report] into law HB 388, which requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Opponents claim the new law will force three of the state's five abortion clinics to close. In May Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed [JURIST report] a bill that requires abortion clinics to have a physician with admitting privileges at a hospital within a 30-mile radius present when an abortion is performed. Last year Alabama, Texas, Wisconsin and North Dakota [JURIST reports] also passed laws requiring doctors who perform abortions to obtain hospital admitting privileges.

 

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