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Fifth Circuit Considers Mississippi Law Designed to Shutter Last Clinic in the State

Three-judge panel will hear arguments on preliminary injunction currently blocking the state’s admitting privileges requirement

(PRESS RELEASE) Today a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will hear arguments on a preliminary injunction currently blocking a Mississippi law designed to close the last remaining clinic in the state. 

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 have admitting privileges at an area hospital. 

Following the 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 and later fully blocked in April 2013—barring the state from imposing criminal and civil penalties on the clinic doctors and staff before the law could take effect.

Said Julie Rikelman, litigation director and attorney arguing on behalf of the clinic and Dr. Parker today: 

“The devastating impact of this unconstitutional law couldn’t be clearer. If it is allowed to take effect, Mississippi will become the first state since Roe v. Wade without a single clinic offering safe, legal abortion care. Women across the state will be plunged back into the dark days of back-alley procedures that Roe was supposed to end.

“This is a blatant violation of women’s constitutional rights and an imminent danger to their health and well-being. We are hopeful that this court, like the district court that blocked the law, will continue to protect Mississippi women’s ability and constitutional right to safely and legally end a pregnancy without having to cross state lines.”

Although all the doctors currently providing abortions to women at the Mississippi clinic are board-certified ob-gyns, the physicians responsible for vast majority of the clinic’s patients have been denied 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.

When blocking the law pending a trial, U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan wrote 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 over 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 Julie Rikelman as lead counsel, along with co-counsel Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and Robert B. McDuff in Jackson, Mississippi.