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Federal District Court Permanently Blocks Mississippi’s Clinic Shutdown Law

Center for Reproductive Rights secures major victory for Mississippi women, ensuring last abortion clinic in state will remain open; Mississippi abandons defense of measure 8 months after Supreme Court issues historic ruling striking Texas’ similar clinic shutdown law and reaffirming a woman’s right to safe, legal abortion

(PRESS RELEASE) A federal district court permanently blocked Mississippi’s Texas-style clinic shutdown law today, ensuring the last abortion clinic in the state will remain open. Today’s ruling comes just 8 months after the Supreme Court issued its historic ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt, which struck Texas’ nearly-identical clinic shutdown law as unconstitutiona and reaffirmed a woman’s right to safe, legal abortion.

Mississippi continued to defend its clinic shutdown law—which requires any physician associated with an abortion facility to have admitting privileges at a local hospital—until earlier this month despite the Supreme Court ruling in Whole Woman’s Health.  Mississippi recently abandoned its defense of the measure, admitting Mississippi “cannot identify any meaningful distinction between the Texas admitting privileges law struck down in Hellerstedt and the admitting privileges requirement of H.B. 1390.” 

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights: 

"Today's ruling is the latest victory for women's health and rights--and it will not be the last. Our landmark win at the Supreme Court last summer continues to reverberate across the nation. Any politician trying to roll back women's constitutional rights should take notice and remember the law is on our side." 

The Center will continue to challenge Mississippi’s unconstitutional requirement prohibiting most physicians from providing abortion care at an abortion facility by allowing only board-certified or board-eligible obstetrician-gynecologists to provide such care. Mississippi is the only state in the country that has such a requirement. 

Case history:  Mississippi’s admitting privileges and ob-gyn requirements 

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a legal challenge to both the admitting privileges and ob-gyn requirements in 2012 on behalf of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization—the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi—and Dr. Willie Parker.  A federal district court partially blocked the admitting privileges requirement in July 2012 and later fully blocked the admitting privileges requirement in April 2013—barring the state from enforcing it pending the outcome of the litigation.  Neither court order involved the ob-gyn requirement, which has been in effect since July 2012.  A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit heard arguments on the district court’s preliminary injunction of the admitting privileges requirement in April 2014 and upheld the injunction blocking the law in July 2014.  

In November 2014 the Fifth Circuit refused to reconsider its decision to continue to block the law; in February 2015, the state of Mississippi  requested  the U.S. Supreme Court review the Fifth Circuit’s ruling.  Over a year and a half later—and only one day after ruling that Texas’ clinic shutdown law was unconstitutional—the Supreme Court refused to review the measure, ensuring the last clinic in the state could remain open while the legal challenge continued.  Despite the ruling in Whole Woman’s Health, Mississippi continued to defend its admitting privileges requirement until March 2017.   

 

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