Mississippi's only abortion clinic sued the state this week to stop a law that it says will effectively ban the medical procedure in the state by imposing what it says are medically unjustified requirements on physicians who perform abortions.
The Jackson Women's Health Organization, the state's only clinic providing elective abortions, filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday seeking to block the state health department from enforcing those requirements, which are set to take effect on Sunday, July 1. The law, H.B. 1390, states that physicians who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at a local hospital and be board-certified or eligible in obstetrics and gynecology.
The department's actions jeopardize patient health, because they will effectively ban abortion in the state of Mississippi, leaving women with nowhere to turn in Mississippi, the clinic said in its complaint, according to media reports.
Admitting privileges refers to an arrangement with a hospital that allows a physician to refer patients to the facility in case further treatment is needed. Although lawmakers say the regulation is intended to boost patient safety, the lawsuit argues it is impossible for the clinic's physicians to get those admitting privileges by Sunday.
The three physicians who currently work at the Jackson Women's Health Organization have applied for privileges but have not received them, the Associated Press reports. They can often be difficult to obtain because some religion-affiliated hospitals in the state will not grant them to doctors who perform abortions.
The clinic is asking a federal judge in Jackson to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the state from enforcing the law, arguing the regulations violate women's constitutional right to an abortion. However, Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, has indicated that is the aim of the law. When Bryant signed the new restrictions into law in April, the governor said it was the first step in the movement to end abortion in Mississippi.
Mississippi could become the first state without an abortion clinic since the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which guaranteed a woman's right to have the procedure.
Although abortion clinics operate in the four states surrounding Mississippi -- Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama -- they all require a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion can be carried out, a wait that could complicate an out-of-state trip for many Mississippians.