The Corner

Pro-Life Stalemate in Mississippi

Last Friday pro-lifers received mixed news from Federal Judge Daniel P. Jordan III. The good news is that Judge Jordan has decided to allow Mississippi House Bill 1390 to go into effect. This is the law that would require that abortion providers be licensed OB/GYNs with admitting privileges at a local hospital. None of the abortion providers who work at Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, currently has admitting privileges at local hospitals. Under this ruling, state officials can now begin an administrative process that could possibly lead to the closing of the clinic.

 However, Judge Jordan also ruled that the clinic can remain open and will not face criminal or civil penalties as it tries to comply with the law. “We do not yet know whether the clinic will obtain admitting and staff privileges,” the judge wrote. “As both parties stated during the hearing, the resolution of that issue will impact the ultimate issues in this case.” Somewhat ominously for pro-lifers, Judge Jordan also wrote that the closure of the clinic would pose an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions. This may mean that if the law would result in the closure of the clinic, he may consider this legislation unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s Casey decision.

This ruling raises some interesting questions. The owner of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Diane Derzis, was also the owner of the All Woman New Woman abortion clinic in Birmingham, Ala. Earlier this year, the Alabama Department of Public Health forced All Woman New Woman to close due to repeated health and safety violations. It would be unfortunate if the Mississippi State Department of Health would be unable to completely enforce various health and safety rules because the closure of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization would pose an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions. Mississippi State Department of Health officials are reviewing Judge Jordan’s decision to see what the next steps may be. However, it seems likely that further litigation will be necessary before this law is completely enforced.

Michael J. New is a visiting assistant professor of social research and political science at the Catholic University of America and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C.

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