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Court Strikes Down Mississippi Abortion Law: Women in State Narrowly Escape Virtual Ban on Second Trimester Abortion

Today, women in Mississippi narrowly escaped a virtual ban on second trimester abortions in their state when the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi declared a 2004 law unconstitutional. The law would have banned abortions after the first trimester from being performed in any facility other than licensed hospitals or ambulatory surgical facilities. But only one medical facility in the entire state, the Jackson Women's Health Organization, regularly provides second trimester abortions and, under the new law, such abortion clinics were ineligible for licensing.

U.S. District Judge Tom Lee declared the law unconstitutional, recognizing that it does nothing to protect the health and safety of women who choose abortion despite the state legislature's claims.

"We are extremely gratified by today's ruling. Mississippi's abortion laws are already among the most restrictive in the country. This latest legislation was just another example of anti-choice politicians professing to protect women's health while relentlessly passing legislation that cuts off their access to health-care services," said Bonnie Scott Jones, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Last year, the Center filed a lawsuit challenging the law on behalf of the Jackson Women's Health Organization. The preliminary injunction was granted shortly thereafter, pending a final decision in the trial court. But the court decided to forgo trial, and struck the law down based on the legal issues before it.

Nearly 400 women a year receive second-trimester abortions in Mississippi. Many of them have difficulty paying for the procedure and must wait until they've raised the necessary funds. Others don't recognize they are pregnant, misjudge the gestation period or take time deciding to have an abortion, and end up obtaining the procedure later in pregnancy.

The plaintiff in this case is the Jackson Women's Health Organization. The clinic is represented by Bonnie Scott Jones and Simon Heller of the Center for Reproductive Rights and S. Mark Wann of the Jackson firm Maxey Wann PPLC. The defendants are Brian Amy, State Health Officer for the Mississippi State Department of Health; S. Malcolm O. Harrison, Hinds County Attorney; and Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi.

Learn more about the fight against national abortion bans.