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State to ask judge to clear way to close abortion clinic

JACKSON — Mississippi will ask a federal appeals court to overturn a ruling that has temporarily blocked authorities from closing the state’s only abortion clinic.

U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III ruled in April that the state couldn’t close Jackson Women’s Health Organization while the clinic still has a federal lawsuit pending.

The state filed a notice on Friday that it will ask the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to overturn Jordan’s decision.

The clinic’s lawsuit, filed last summer in U.S. District Court in Jackson, challenges a 2012 state law that requires each OB-GYN who does abortions at the clinic to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. So far, the clinic has been unable to obtain the privileges.

Supporters of the law, including Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, say it’s designed to protect women’s health, but opponents say it’s designed to close the clinic and cut off access to abortion.

Jordan allowed the law to take effect in July 2012, but he blocked the state from closing the clinic while the clinic tried to get admitting privileges. Such privileges can be difficult to obtain, because hospitals often won’t give them to out-of-state physicians. The clinic uses out-of-state OB-GYNs, including one from Chicago.

Contacted Tuesday by The Associated Press, clinic owner Diane Derzis deferred comment to the Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York-based group that represents the clinic in its lawsuit. Bebe Anderson, an attorney who is director of the U.S. legal program for the center, said in a phone interview that Mississippi has been trying to shut down the clinic.

“We would hope that the 5th Circuit will uphold the well-reasoned decision by the district court judge,” Anderson said.

With only one abortion clinic remaining open in the state, Anderson said, “obviously, the stakes are high for women in Mississippi.”

Republican state Rep. Sam Mims of McComb, chief sponsor of the admitting-privileges bill that became law, said Tuesday he’s pleased that the attorney general is asking the appeals court to overturn the ruling that has allowed the clinic to remain open.

“I continue to believe the law is constitutional,” Mims said. “The intent of the law is clear. We believe this is a health care issue for women.”

The lawsuit is scheduled for trial March 3 in Jackson.


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