Last abortion clinic in Mississippi closes as withdrawal ban begins

Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, will close its doors after hours Wednesday after a trial judge refused to block the state’s trigger law from going into effect, imposing a near-total ban on abortion.

“Without further action, today will be the last day Jackson Women’s Health will be able to offer abortion services,” said Hillary Schneller, a senior counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, who represents the clinic. “This means the last abortion provider in Mississippi will be unable to provide both Mississippi residents and people who have traveled across state lines with access to this essential care before it is too late to provide basic care.” .”

Firm Judge Debbra K. Halford on Tuesday denied the clinic’s motion for a cease-and-desist, citing the US Supreme Court’s decision to strike out the clinic Roe v. calf Last month. Halford, a trial judge in southwest Mississippi, was appointed to rule the case after local judges in Hinds County, Mississippi, where the clinic is located, backed down.

“The bans we are challenging, both the no-departure ban and the six-week ban, undoubtedly should have been blocked due to the existing protections of the Mississippi Constitution,” Schneller said. “Humans do not lose their right to bodily autonomy when they become pregnant.”

Robert McDuff, another lawyer for the clinic, said the legal team is considering next steps, including a possible appeal in the coming days, but the clinic will be unable to continue providing services while the case weaves through the courts .

“Right now, the prospects for the clinic reopening are not very good,” McDuff said.

Mississippi’s Trigger Act was passed in 2007 when roe still secured federal protection for access to abortion. The law prohibits almost all abortions with narrow exceptions in the case of rape reported to the police or to save the mother’s life. The state may begin enforcing this law for the first time on Thursday.

Tuesday’s court hearing that decided the immediate fate of the state’s last abortion clinic began with a pastor’s prayerdemanded by the judge for “the presence of [the] Holy Spirit in the courtroom.”

The legal team representing the Jackson Women’s Health Organization argued that a right to privacy enshrined in the Mississippi Constitution protects access to abortion at the state level, independent of federal law. McDuff argued that a 1998 case was called Pro Choice Mississippi vs. Fordice found that the state constitution protects the right to abortion. The Mississippi Supreme Court “made it clear that its decision was based on Mississippi’s right to privacy and the history of abortion rights in the state of Mississippi,” McDuff said in an interview.

Mississippi Attorney General Scott G. Stewart pleaded the state’s case in favor of the enactment of the trigger act and contended that the 1998 judgment left strong roe and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, overturned by the US Supreme Court last month. Halford agreed with the state.

“Since roe and Casey are no longer the law of the land to rely on Fordice will almost certainly be unfounded if this case proceeds to the Supreme Court,” the judge wrote in her order to deny an injunction. “Taking into account Fordicein the light of roe, Casey and Dobbsit is more than doubtful that the Mississippi Supreme Court will continue to agree Fordice.”

Halford acknowledged that the potential harm to patients who desire an abortion, including psychological trauma and a perceived loss of opportunity, would be “significant and irreparable.” But she decided the state had a more compelling case for enforcing the law.

Halford said the state has “legitimate interests” in an application the trigger law as soon as possible, including “‘respect and preservation of prenatal life at all stages of development’, ‘protection of the health and safety of the mother’, ‘abolition of particularly cruel or barbaric medical procedures’, ‘preservation of the integrity of the medical profession'”, ” the alleviation of fetal pain” and “the prevention of discrimination based on race, sex or disability,” all found by the US Supreme Court in Dobbs.”

After the court’s decision to let the state’s near-total abortion ban go into effect Thursday, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves hailed the ruling as “a major victory for life.”

“Every life has an inherent dignity and Mississippi will continue to do everything possible to advance the fight for life,” Reeves added in a statement Tuesday. Last abortion clinic in Mississippi closes as withdrawal ban begins

James Brien

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