Fifth Circuit Court Rules In Favor Of Mississippi's Last Clinic
Mississippi's last remaining abortion clinic will remain open after a the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction against HB 1390, the Mississippi TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) law requiring abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at area hospitals.
Had the court not upheld the lower federal's court's injunction, HB 1390 would have shuttered Jackson Women's Health Organization (JWHO), the state's only comprehensive reproductive health center. After the enactment of the law, two of the three doctors affiliated with the clinic attempted to obtain admitting privileges at at least seven Jackson-area hospitals, but every hospital denied their request, citing reasons such as "the nature of your proposed medical practice is inconsistent with this Hospital's policies" and that their medical practice would disrupt the hospital's relationship with the community. Because the doctors could not obtain admitting privileges, Mississippi threatened to revoke the clinic's license and shut its doors.
Mississippi's TRAP laws have gradually eroded families' access to comprehensive care, bringing the total number of clinics from 14 in 1981 to just one in 2014. When HB 1390 was signed into law, Gov. Phil Bryant called it the "first step in a movement" to end abortion in Mississippi.
"The Mississippi TRAP law would have closed the only comprehensive women's reproductive health clinic in the state and necessitated women driving hundreds of miles to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion," said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "For women who could not afford to travel out of state, this ruling literally saves lives."
Writing for the majority, Judge E. Grady Jolly said the decision boiled down to whether or not the state of Mississippi could get in the way of a woman's Constitutionally protected right to choose an abortion. Jolly called out the state's argument that Mississippi citizens could obtain an abortion in Tennessee, Louisiana, or Alabama. "Mississippi may not shift its obligation to respect the constitutional rights of its citizen to another state," Jolly wrote. "Such a proposal would not only place an undue burden on the exercise of the constitutional right, but would also disregard a state's obligation under the principle of federalism--applicable to all fifty states--to accept the burden of the non-delegable duty of protecting the established federal constitutional rights of its own citizens."
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Jackson Women's Health Organization. In a press release issued by the organization yesterday, President and CEO Nancy Northrup said, "For far too long, women in Mississippi have been teetering on the precipice of a reality similar to the dark days before Roe v. Wade, where reproductive health care options were limited at best and life-threatening at worst."
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said he will work with the state's Attorney General, who is petitioning for the full Fifth Circuit to review the panel's decision.
Meanwhile, three anti-abortion extremists were convicted in Jackson City Municipal court on Monday for interfering with access to the Jackson clinic. DuVergne Gaines, Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation National Clinic Access Project, was in Jackson for both the local convictions and for the Fifth Circuit decision. She called the convictions of Roy McMillan, Chet Gallagher, and Harriet Ashley, "a huge victory." She continued, "These extremists have, literally, laid siege to this facility for the last two years since we learned its fate was in jeopardy because of Mississippi's TRAP law. We're thankful for the police department's vigilance in enforcing the law."
Media Resources: Jackson Free Press 7/29/14; Governor Phil Bryant 7/29/14; Center for Reproductive Rights 7/29/14; Feminist Majority Foundation 7/29/14; Feminist Newswire 7/29/14