The full US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Thursday refused to reconsider a panel decision blocking enforcement of a Mississippi law that threatened to close the last remaining abortion clinic in the state.
In July, a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a preliminary injunction against a Mississippi TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) law requiring abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals. Had the law gone into effect, Mississippi’s last remaining abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO), would have had to shut its doors.
“For now, the sole clinic providing safe, legal abortion care can keep its doors open for the women of Mississippi,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing JWHO in the lawsuit. “Earlier decisions in this case have rightly recognized the very real and severe harm that would befall countless women in Mississippi if the state’s only abortion clinic were shuttered.”
Admitting privileges requirements are a political tool used by anti-abortion politicians to close abortion clinics. Both the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Medical Association (AMA) have opposed these laws, which have no health benefit and do not increase patient safety. In fact, admitting privileges laws jeopardize women’s health by cutting off access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare.
After the Mississippi law was passed, two of the three doctors affiliated with JWHO attempted to obtain admitting privileges at at least seven Jackson-area hospitals, but every hospital denied their request, even though the doctors are both board-certified OB-GYNs. Reasons for the denials included “the nature of your proposed medical practice” and fear that extending privileges would disrupt the hospital’s relationship with the community.
The case will now return to the federal district court for a full hearing on the challenge to the law. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, who announced in his “state of the state” speech – on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade – that his goal was “to end abortion in Mississippi,” has indicated that he intends to defend the TRAP law and would take the case to the US Supreme Court, if necessary.
Media Resources: Center for Reproductive Rights 11/20/14; The Clarion Ledger 11/20/14; Feminist Newswire 7/30/14; RH Reality Check 1/31/14