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Mississippi’s Anti-Choice Admitting Privileges Law Dealt Another Blow

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Mississippi's admitting privileges law will remain blocked after the full panel of 15 judges on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refuses to hear the case again.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will not reconsider a ruling declaring Mississippi’s admitting privileges law unconstitutional, leaving in place an order blocking the law from taking effect for now.

Signed into law in April 2012, Mississippi’s admitting privileges law, HB 1390, is similar to measures pushed by anti-choice legislators and passed in TexasWisconsin, and Alabama and mandates that doctors who perform abortions in the state have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals or face civil and criminal penalties.

Just before the law was set to take effect in 2010, the Center for Reproductive Rights, on behalf of the state’s only abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and one of its providers, Dr. Willie Parker, sued to block the law, arguing it unduly burdened abortion rights.

A federal district court agreed and partially blocked the law in July 2012, and then fully blocked it in April 2013.

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In July 2014 a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit upheld the injunction blocking the law and ruled the state could not target its only abortion clinic for closure by enacting the admitting privileges law. The Fifth Circuit released the order refusing to reconsider the case Thursday, following an appeal in August by attorneys for the State of Mississippi. The case now heads back to the federal district court.

The Mississippi admitting privileges requirement is similar to a Texas law that a different panel of judges on the Fifth Circuit had previously upheld as constitutional. But the difference in outcome between these two cases hinged on whether or not Mississippi would lose its only clinic.

“For now, the sole clinic providing safe, legal abortion care can keep its doors open for the women of Mississippi,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement following the release of the opinion. “Earlier decisions in this case have rightly recognized the very real and severe harm that would befall countless women in Mississippi if the state’s only abortion clinic were shuttered.”

Attorneys for the State of Mississippi have the option of appealing Thursday’s order to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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