Today, US District Judge Tom Lee threw out a Mississippi law that banned early second trimester abortions at clinics, declaring it unconstitutional. The law would have required women to go to hospitals or surgical facilities to obtain an abortion at any point after 13 weeks. Governor Haley Barbour had pushed the law through the state legislature, and vowed to drive the Jackson Women’s Health Clinic, last abortion clinic in the state, out of business. That clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, challenged the law with the help of the Center for Reproductive Rights. Lee, a Republican, overturned the law because of the burden it placed on women exercising their right to choice. Last year, he also blocked enforcement of this law, which would otherwise have gone into effect on July 1, 2004.
Susan Hill, the president of the Women’s Health Organization, which owns the clinic, told the Feminist Majority Foundation “we’re thrilled with the ruling – it’s a lonely victory for women in Mississippi. We’re surprised and happy that a federal judge in Mississippi saw the burden to women in this statute.” In the ruling, Judge Lee writes that the measure “had the effect of unduly burdening a woman’s right to choose an abortion, and was thus constitutionally infirm.”
Mississippi has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation, as well as one of the highest infant-mortality rate and the highest teen birthrate. Women need access to reproductive services, and this ruling ensures that their access will continue. The Jackson Women’s Health Organization has faced many challenges, from threats by anti-abortion protestors to punitive restrictions imposed by state lawmakers. The Feminist Majority Foundation is proud to have helped it through these trials, and congratulates the clinic and its advocates on this victory.