Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mississippi’s Only Abortion Clinic Could Be Forced To Close In January

Jackson Women’s Health Organization — the only abortion clinic in the entire state of Mississippi — has been fighting to remain open after Republican legislators, aiming to force the clinic to close, passed a restrictive regulation requiring its doctors to secure hospital admitting privileges. A Bush-appointed federal judge temporarily blocked the measure in July to give the clinic’s doctors more time to apply for privileges at area hospitals, but that order expires in early January. And so far, all seven hospitals in the area have denied privileges to the doctors.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a motion Wednesday asking a judge to stop the law from being implemented — and forcing the clinic to stop providing abortion care — before January 6, 2013. If it closes, women in Mississippi will no longer have access to abortion in the state:

“This unconstitutional law has essentially handed over the fate of Mississippi women’s reproductive health care to hospital administrators,” said Michelle Movahed, staff attorney at the Center [for Reproductive Rights]. 
Betty Thompson, a spokesperson for the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, told The Huffington Post that the clinic’s staffers are “on pins and needles” waiting for the court’s decision. She said the clinic served about 2,000 patients in 2011 and that the majority of its clients are low-income and teenage women. The next nearest clinic for Mississippi residents is approximately three hours away and over the state line, and most neighboring states require women to make a second visit to the abortion clinic after a 24-hour waiting period in order to receive services. 
“Mississippi women have the same constitutional rights as any other women in the United States,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “They deserve far better than to be forced to travel hundreds of miles to another state to get a safe, legal medical procedure.”

Hospitals reportedly denied privileges to clinic doctors because the fact that they provide abortion services “is inconsistent with this Hospital’s policies and practices as concerns abortion and, in particular, elective abortions.” Mississippi has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, as well as the lowest abortion rate.

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