Mississippi's sole abortion clinic could be forced to close its doors in the near future, under a bill that critics say hides behind language such as safety and women's health in order to impose regulations that could end up effectively making abortion impossible at the clinic.
The Mississippi state Senate gave final legislative approval to the measure on Thursday, and it is now headed to the desk of Gov. Phil Bryant, who has said he intends to sign it into law, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported. H.B.1390 would require physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and be board certified or eligible in obstetrics and gynecology.
The state's only abortion clinic is the Jackson Women's Health Organization. Diane Derzis, the owner of the facility, told POLITICO that while the clinic currently has three board-certified physicians on its roster, only one of those doctors has admitting privileges to a local hospital.
Admitting privileges are an arrangement with a hospital that allows a physician to refer patients to the facility in case further treatment is needed. Derzis believes it will be a challenge to secure those admitting privileges for the other two doctors, meaning once the bill is signed into law they will have to scramble to obtain those rights.
Derzis said she will challenge the law in court if the physicians are denied those privileges.
If you mandate something that can't be accomplished, I don't believe that's constitutional, she told POLITICO.
The bill passed the state House earlier in the session and is expected to head to Gov. Bryant's desk for his signature as early as next week. In a statement, Bryant hailed the measure as an important step in strengthening abortion regulations and protecting the health and safety of women that goes closer to making Mississippi abortion-free.
Although abortion is permitted by federal law, the bill could potentially be interpreted as a major violation of the rights granted to women under the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade if it prevents women from legally accessing those services. Republican State Rep. Sam Mims, the author of the bill, told POLITICO that he is very pleased the legislation is set to become law because [Mississippi] is historically one of the strongest pro-life states in the nation, and this new legislation will add to that.
Mississippi became the focus of national attention late last year because of a statewide ballot measure on a personhood constitutional amendment that would have defined a fertilized egg as a human being, a move that would have consequently outlawed abortion. While most of the state's elected officials -- including former Gov. Haley Barbour, whose term ended in January -- supported the controversial referendum, it was ultimately rejected by 58 percent of voters.