Judge upholds Mississippi anti-abortion law
Saturday 14 July 2012
A US federal judge upheld Mississippi's anti-abortion law but said the state's only clinic can stay open and will not face any penalties as it tries to comply with the new mandate.
US District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III gave the clinic and the state each a partial victory with his ruling.
The law requires anyone who does abortions at the clinic to be an OB-GYN with privileges to admit patients to a local hospital.
The clinic's two out-of-state OB-GYNS don't have those privileges and have had difficulty getting them from local hospitals.
"The resolution of that issue will impact the ultimate issues in this case," Mr Jordan wrote.
The clinic, Jackson Women's Health Organisation, has said it could be forced out of business with the admitting privileges requirement, making it nearly impossible to get an abortion in the state.
The US Supreme Court has ruled states can not place undue burdens on, or substantial obstacles to, women seeking abortions.
The clinic said its OB-GYNs have applied for admitting privileges at most Jackson-area hospitals but have not received responses.
When clinic employees called a Catholic hospital to ask about applying for privileges, clinic owner Diane Derzis said: "We were told not to bother."
The clinic sued the state on June 27 seeking to block the law. Jordan temporarily blocked the measure July 1, the day it was supposed to take effect.
He heard arguments about the clinic's request for a longer injunction, and granted the request in part.
"The act will be allowed to take effect, but plaintiffs will not be subject to the risk of criminal or civil penalties at this time or in the future for operating without the relevant privileges," the judge wrote.
Supporters of the law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature this year said it's designed to protect patients, and Republican governor Phil Bryant has said he hopes it will help make Mississippi "abortion-free".
Mr Bryant said he was "gratified" that the judge will allow the law to start taking effect.
The state health officer, Dr Mary Currier, filed a sworn statement in federal court showing how long it would take to fully implement the law if it takes effect.
If the clinic is inspected and found out of compliance, it would get about 10 months to try to follow the mandates and to exhaust its administrative appeals with the Health Department. If the clinic loses its state licence, it would then get more time to appeal to a state court.
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