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04.15.13 - (PRESS RELEASE) A federal court ruled today that Mississippi state officials cannot enforce a requirement designed to shut down the state's only
reproductive health care provider offering abortions-fully blocking the admitting privileges provision while a legal challenge to the unconstitutional
House Bill 1390, which was signed into law in April 2012, imposes arbitrary and medically unwarranted requirements that any physician performing abortions in the state be a board certified or eligible obstetrician-gynecologist with admitting privileges at an area hospital.
Following a lawsuit brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the Jackson Women's Health Organization and Dr. Willie Parker, the law was partially blocked in July 2012—barring the state from imposing criminal and civil penalties on the clinic doctors and staff during the administrative process of attempting to comply with the admitting privileges regulation.
Although all the doctors currently providing abortions to women at the Mississippi clinic are board-certified ob-gyns, the Center requested a new preliminary injunction after the physicians responsible for vast majority of the clinic's patients were not granted privileges by any of the hospitals in the area-with several hospitals refusing to even process the physicians' applications, citing hospital policies on abortion care.
Today's ruling (PDF attached) from U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III blocks all remaining forms of enforcement of the admitting privileges requirement, preventing the state Department of Health from revoking the clinic's license for failing to comply with the new regulations.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
"Today's ruling provides the state's only abortion clinic and its doctors with critical protection to continue providing the safe and legal reproductive health care to which Mississippi women are constitutionally entitled.
"While the women of Mississippi may be able to breathe a collective sigh of relief today, this fight is far from over. We will continue our work to see this underhanded attempt to ban abortions in Mississippi struck down as a violation of women's constitutional reproductive rights.
"The battle doesn't stop at the defeat of this one law. Anti-choice politicians in Mississippi and in several states across the U.S. have already introduced an onslaught of extreme and dangerous measures designed to erode women's constitutional rights and block their access to essential health care.
"We will continue to defend the reproductive rights of all women relentlessly by exposing the terrible harm that this and all laws that seek to undermine women's fundamental rights can cause in countless women's lives."
In issuing his order today, Judge Jordan noted that enforcing the admitting privileges requirement would "result in a patchwork system where constitutional rights are available in some states but not others."
The Jackson Women's Health Organization has served women and families in Mississippi for 17 years, and has been the sole reproductive health care provider offering abortion in the state since 2002. The next nearest clinics for Mississippi residents are approximately three hours away, with most neighboring states requiring a mandatory 24-hour waiting period.
The Center filed the suit, Jackson Women's Health Organization & Willie Parker, M.D., M.P.H., M.Sc. v. Mary Currier, M.D., M.P.H. & Robert Shuler Smith, with Michelle Movahed as lead counsel, along with co-counsel Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, and co-counsel Robert B. McDuff in Jackson, Mississippi.