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Mississippi Appeals Order Keeping Jackson Women’s Clinic Open

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Attorneys for the State of Mississippi hope the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will rule that the state can move forward with closing the clinic for failing to meet its admitting privileges requirement.

Attorneys for the State of Mississippi filed notice that they will appeal a lower court ruling that temporarily blocked authorities from closing the last remaining abortion clinic in the state.

According to reports, the state filed a notice of appeal with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Friday, asking the appeals court to overturn an April decision by U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III that the Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO) could stay open while the clinic’s lawsuit challenging a 2012 admitting privileges law proceeds. Judge Jordan said that the law—which requires each OB-GYN who performs abortions at the clinic to also have admitting privileges at local hospitals—was allowed to go into effect but simultaneously blocked efforts by the state to start closing the clinic as a sort of compromise to try and allow the clinic and its physicians to secure those admitting privileges. Despite the fact that all the doctors who currently provide abortions at JWHO are board-certified OB-GYNs, the physicians responsible for the vast majority of the clinic’s abortions were denied privileges by the hospitals in the area. Several hospitals refused to even process the physicians’ applications, citing hospital policies on abortion care as the reason for the denial.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is a notoriously conservative circuit that previously upheld both Texas’ mandatory ultrasound law as well as the state’s efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. In the Mississippi case, it will ultimately have an opportunity to consider the question of whether or not an abortion restriction that closes the last remaining clinic in the state creates an undue burden on the right to choose abortion.

A trial on the constitutionality of the Mississippi law is scheduled to begin in March 2014.

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The Fifth Circuit is not the only federal circuit likely to consider the issue. Similar litigation is pending in Wisconsin and in state court in North Dakota, where, like Mississippi, only one abortion clinic remains. In July, a federal judge in Alabama temporarily blocked the state from enforcing the admitting privileges portion of its new abortion law until March 2014 while a legal challenge filed by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union moves forward.

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