Judge extends abortion law haltPublished 12:15am Thursday, July 12, 2012
NATCHEZ — The author of the law that would have effectively shut down Mississippi’s only abortion clinic said he awaits the judge’s final ruling in the matter after the temporary restraining order that blocked it from going into effect earlier this month was extended Wednesday.
U.S. Judge Daniel P. Jordan III originally blocked the law from taking effect July 1, and after hearing arguments Wednesday from representatives of the state and the clinic, Women’s Health Organization in Jackson, he extended the order.
The judge did not say Wednesday how long the order blocking the law would be extended.
The law, authored by Rep. Sam Mims (R-McComb), would require anyone performing an abortion in Mississippi to be a licensed OB-GYN and to have admitting privileges in a local hospital.
Mims said the judge indicated he wanted more time to consider new rules and regulations the state department of health adopted Wednesday that would affect the enforcement of the law before making a final decision.
“I think that makes sense, and I look forward to his ruling,” Mims said.
Current federal court precedents say that states are not allowed to place substantial obstacles in the way of patients seeking an abortion. The representatives for Women’s Health Organization argued in part that the new requirements are such an obstacle, as local hospitals have not responded to their request for admitting privileges for the two out-of-state doctors affiliated with the clinic.
“If they’re denied or if the hospitals are dragging their feet, that’s going to be more clear evidence that there’s a substantial obstacle (to abortion),” clinic attorney Robert McDuff said.
Mims said several other states have similar laws on the books, and he believes it will ultimately pass constitutional muster.
“Any time you are dealing with a very controversial issue that both sides feel very strongly about, it may wind up in court, but this piece of legislation passed overwhelmingly in the Mississippi house and senate, and it has a large amount of bipartisan support — both Republicans and Democrats — and the governor signed this legislation,” Mims said.
Mississippi doctors who perform fewer than 10 abortions a month do not have to register their offices as an abortion clinic.
According to court documents, the Women’s Health Organization provided approximately 3,000 abortions over an 18-month period.