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Supreme Court Refuses to Review Mississippi’s Clinic Shutdown Law

Last clinic in the state to remain open while legal challenge continues Order comes less than one day after nation’s highest court strikes down Texas’ clinic shutdown law

(PRESS RELEASE) The United States Supreme Court today declined to review Mississippi’s arbitrary and medically unwarranted law specifically designed to shutter the last abortion clinic in the state—ensuring the measure will remain blocked and the clinic open while the case proceeds in federal district court.

In February 2015, Mississippi requested the Supreme Court review a July 2014 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit which continued to preliminarily block the law—a measure which arbitrarily requires all physicians associated with a licensed abortion clinic to have admitting privileges at a local hospital for no medical reason.

Today’s order comes less than one day after the nation’s highest court issued a historic ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt striking Texas’ clinic shutdown law as unconstitutional.

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

“The Supreme Court did right by Mississippi women today in allowing the doors of their state’s last abortion clinic remain open while this crucial legal battle continues.

“Whether in Mississippi, Texas, or any other state across the U.S., politicians cannot insert their personal beliefs into a woman’s decision whether to continue or end a pregnancy.  We are confident that courts across the country will continue to affirm that politicians cannot pass laws attacking women’s access to safe, legal abortion.”

The Court today also declined to review Wisconsin’s clinic shutdown law.

The Jackson Women’s Health Organization has served women and families in Mississippi for 20 years, and has been the sole reproductive health care provider offering abortion in the state for approximately ten years. The next nearest clinics for Mississippi residents are approximately three hours away, with most neighboring states requiring mandatory waiting periods for women seeking safe and legal abortion services. 

Although all the doctors currently providing abortions to women at the Mississippi clinic are board-certified ob-gyns, the physicians responsible for providing abortions to the vast majority of the clinic’s patients have been unable to obtain privileges at any hospital in the area—in fact, no hospital would even process the physicians’ applications, with several hospitals citing their policies against abortion care.

Case History

The Center filed the lawsuitJackson Women’s Health Organization & Willie Parker, M.D., M.P.H., M.Sc. v. Mary Currier, M.D., M.P.H. & Robert Shuler Smith—in June 2012, with Julie Rikelman as lead counsel, along with co-counsel Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and Robert B. McDuff in Jackson, Mississippi.

A federal district court partially blocked the law 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.  A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit heard arguments on the district court’s preliminary injunction 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.

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