Mississippi's sole abortion clinic one step closer to closure

Jackson Women's Health Organization is hoping a federal judge will block a Mississippi law that could shut down the state's only abortion clinic.

The only abortion clinic in Mississippi says it will challenge a move by the state to revoke its license, which would effectively shut it down.

Jackson Women's Health Organization in Jackson, Miss., was notified by the state Health Department a week ago Friday that it is out of compliance with a new state law and its license will be revoked.

Clinic owner Diane Dersiz said the move was expected. She told MSN News on Friday that the clinic will request an administrative hearing to fight the license revocation. Under state regulations, it has until Monday to do so.

"We're the only thing left. Too many women in that state rely upon us. We're going do whatever it takes to make sure Roe v. Wade is not an empty promise," she said.

The clinic is not expected to close anytime soon.

The Health Department has 30 days after the request to set a hearing date. If the license revocation is upheld, the clinic can appeal to state or federal court.

Meanwhile, the Jackson Women's Health Organization has asked a federal judge to issue a full preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the law. It's not known when U.S. District Judge Dan Jordan, who temporarily blocked portions of the law in July, might rule, according to the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing the clinic in court.

If the injunction is not granted and all the state administrative appeals are exhausted, the clinic could be forced to close as early as March, its lawyers say.

"The harms that will result without such relief are irreparable, imminent, and incapable of being remedied by monetary damages," the Center for Reproductive Rights argues in federal court documents.

The debate is over a law passed last year by state lawmakers that requires all abortion providers at a clinic to have "admitting privileges" — the right to admit patients to a particular hospital should medical complications arise or should the patient need special care or procedures.

The Jackson Women's Health Organization says its abortion providers have been turned down at every area hospital they've applied to for privileges. The clinic argues that the privileges provision is a de facto and unconstitutional attempt to ban all abortions in Mississippi.

The state says the privileges requirement is a legitimate health and safety regulation.

"Contrary to Plaintiffs' assertions, termination of pregnancy is not a benign medical procedure. In some cases, serious complications, even life-threatening ones, arise and necessitate optimal and evidence-based treatment," lawyers for the state argue in court documents.

Anti-abortion advocates, including Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, have made it no secret that they want Mississippi to be abortion-free.

"My goal, of course, is to shut it down," Bryant said last month, according to The Associated Press. "Now, we'll follow the laws. The bill is in the courts now, related to the physicians and their association with a hospital. But, certainly, if I had the power to do so legally, I'd do so tomorrow."

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Meanwhile, a renewed attempt to eliminate abortions is brewing in North Dakota, which along with Mississippi, South Dakota and Arkansas, is believed to be one of the only states with only one surgical abortion clinic. Lawmakers this week began taking up a slew of bills that would make it virtually impossible to get a legal abortion in the state.

The bills deal with the definition of "personhood," fetal heartbeat and, like the Mississippi law, admitting privileges.

Rep. Bette Grande, R-Fargo, a proponent of a bill that declares a fetus' heartbeat as proof of life, used a National Geographic video clip to make her case at a House committee hearing earlier this week, according to The Bismarck Tribune.

The video reportedly showed a fetus with a heartbeat at shortly after six weeks of development in the womb.

"This bill is about the unborn child and the heart that beats within," Grande was quoted as saying by the Tribune. "It's compelling testimony on the life in the womb."

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing the Red River Women's Clinic, the state's last remaining abortion clinic, in a lawsuit involving a different abortion law, called the new measures "extreme" and "dangerous for North Dakota women."

"Anti-choice politicians in North Dakota have undertaken an all-out assault on women's constitutionally protected rights, introducing not one, but five bills that would end safe and legal abortion in the state," said Nancy Northup, the center's president and CEO.


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