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Judge issues split ruling on Miss. abortion law

JACKSON, Miss. (BP) — Mississippi’s only abortion clinic will stay open even though a new law that threatens its existence has gone into effect.

In a ruling Friday (July 13), federal judge Daniel Jordan III of Jackson permitted the law to become effective. The measure, signed into law in April, requires a doctor who performs abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and to be certified as an obstetrician/gynecologist.

But Jordan issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the state from using a portion of the law to try to penalize the clinic while its doctors seek to fulfill the law’s mandates.

Only one of the doctors who performs abortions at Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, has admitting privileges at a local hospital, Jordan said in his 11-page order. The other two doctors, who perform the majority of the abortions, are seeking admitting privileges, according to the clinic.

While the futures of both the law and the clinic remain in doubt, the clinic has up to six months under the law to comply with its requirements. In addition, the state has renewed the clinic’s license for another year, Jordan said.

Jordan’s order, however, included language that alarmed the pro-life activist organization Operation Rescue. It commended the judge’s decision to let the law take effect but protested his analysis that an “undue burden” would be created for women if the two doctors stopped doing abortions because of concern about being prosecuted.

“The judge has proposed a new legal doctrine: A dangerous abortion clinic is better than no abortion clinic,” Operation Rescue President Troy Newman said in a written statement. “We beg to differ.

“If a clinic has unsafe operations that endanger patients and violate the law, then it makes no good sense to keep it open,” he said. “In fact, it would violate the state’s right to protect the public safety.”

Jordan initially issued a restraining order against the law July 1, the day it was to take effect, and extended the order July 11.

Initiatives by the Mississippi legislature to adopt health and safety regulations and other restrictions regarding abortion have helped produce a dramatic reduction in abortions over the last two decades. The state total has dropped from more than 8,000 abortions in 1991 to less than 2,800 in 2010, according to Mississippi Right to Life.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

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