Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic fights to stay open

Photo: AP/Rogelio V. Solis
Photo: AP/Rogelio V. Solis
Rogelio V. Solis

The only remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi will be forced to close in January if a new state law regulating physicians goes into effect.

The law, passed by Republican state lawmakers earlier this year, would require all abortion physicians to be board-certified OB-GYNs and have admitting privileges to a local hospital. The two doctors who perform the majority of abortion procedures at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization–the only clinic in the state–are board-certified, but were denied admitting privileges after a months-long effort to obtain them, Reuters reports.

On Wednesday, the Center for Reproductive Rights renewed its court motion (on behalf of the clinic) for a federal judge to prevent state officials from enforcing the law. The Center calls its case “a Constitutional challenge to the medically unjustified requirements that were enacted in an attempt to make Mississippi ‘abortion-free.’”

Mississippi has some of the country’s strictest abortion laws, and one of the lowest abortion rates. But it also leads the nation with the highest teen pregnancy rate–what some are calling an epidemic.

Though advocates say the law is designed to protect women’s health, it’s likely to close the clinic’s doors. Clinic owner Diane Derzis told Reuters she sent applications on behalf of all the Jackson physicians to every hospital within a 30-mile radius. All of the hospitals ultimately rejected the requests or refused to even consider them, she said.

The clinic is preparing for the worst. The main page of its website reads as a help-wanted ad:

Jackson Women’s Health Organization is seeking to hire a board-certified or board-eligible OB-GYN with admitting privileges at a Jackson area hospital to perform abortion care at our facility for patients up to 16 weeks in the pregnancy. Candidates must be qualified to perform abortion care up to 16 weeks in the pregnancy as outlined by all regulations governing abortion providers in the State of Mississippi.