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Mississippi's abortion law blocked by judge

Melissa and her guest, Dr.
Anti-abortion demonstrators argue with an administrator from Mississippi's only abortion clinic today after the state's anti-abortion law was blocked by a federal judge late yesterday.
Anti-abortion demonstrators argue with an administrator from Mississippi's only abortion clinic today after the state's anti-abortion law was blocked by a federal judge late yesterday.

Melissa and her guest, Dr. Willie Parker, shone some much-needed light yesterday upon Mississippi's anti-abortion House Bill 1390 -- a law scheduled to go into effect on Sunday, but blocked later in the day by a federal judge until at least July 11, when a hearing will be held to determine whether it'll be blocked for a longer period. This is certainly welcome news to opponents of the law, but not particularly surprising given legal precedent and the lawsuit filed by the state's only abortion clinic to stop it.

What I find rather compelling is that the reasons why U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan took this action seemed to have a lot to do not only with legal precedent, but the wholly non-medical reasons why the law came into existence in the first place. The bill mandates that all abortions be performed by an OB-GYN with admitting privileges at a local hospital. In his interview with Melissa yesterday, Dr. Parke noted why that restriction could put that clinic out of business: the lack of OB-GYNs is already so critical that he, a Washington, D.C.-based abortion provider, is regularly traveling to Mississippi's only clinic, the Jackson Women's Health Organization, to provide services.

House Bill 1390 was signed into law back in April by a governor who proclaimed that he wanted an "abortion-free" state.

First of all, creating legal hurdles that could put the JWHO out of business wouldn't make Mississippi "abortion-free." (Same goes for State Rep. Bubba Carpenter, who I'll get to in a minute.) Perhaps it was merely shorthand, or maybe "abortion-free" shows Governor Phil Bryant's fundamental misunderstanding of his own goals, and his utter lack of regard for the health of women who might want or need an abortion. Who knows -- maybe he thought he'd hit his character limit on Twitter if he actually said the law would create a "safe-and-legal-abortion-free state." As Dr. Parker noted yesterday on our show, that merely opens the door to much more dangerous alternatives, and horrible consequences.

"But hey," that's not exactly a concern of Mississippi Republicans such as Carpernter, who was only concerned with stopping abortion in the state, "literally." Perhaps he, like the Governor, needs a dictionary.

It speaks volumes about the people who write and pass laws like that they do so under the guise of protecting women's health. Said a Bryant spokesman last night:

"Gov. Bryant believes HB 1390 is an important step in strengthening abortion regulations and protecting the health and safety of women. The federal judge's decision is disappointing, and Gov. Bryant plans to work with state leaders to ensure this legislation properly takes effect as soon as possible."

They might even believe that is the case, that they're doing the right thing. But the facts clearly indicate their intention is quite different, and the judge didn't miss that, noting that the JWHO could not as of the law's effective date comply with its restrictions. He added the following in the restraining order which blocked the law:

"Plaintiffs have offered evidence – including quotes from significant legislative and executive officers – that the Act's purpose is to eliminate abortions in Mississippi. They likewise submitted evidence that no safety or health concerns motivated its passage. This evidence has not yet been rebutted."

It can't be said Abortion opponents who've been fortunate enough to gain elective office continue to use that office to go out of their way to endanger women's health, and it's encouraging to see a federal judge (particularly one nominated by former President George W. Bush) seeing through that guise.

Melissa's conversation with Dr. Parker and NYU law professor Kenji Yoshino is below.