Thankfully, Mississippi's Last Abortion Clinic Will Stay Open — For Now

Thankfully, Mississippi women still have access to an abortion clinic in their home state, thanks to a decision made Tuesday by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. In the 2-1 ruling, the court declares that the 2012 ruling that abortion doctors need privileges at nearby hospitals is unconstitutional. That means The Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic — Mississippi's only abortion provider, which has been around for almost 20 years — will still be able to help women receive abortion services.

Prior to this ruling, the two doctors who offer abortions at the clinic were denied privileges at several hospitals in Mississippi. Attorneys representing the state's Department of Health said that if this clinic were shut down, women would still be able to drive to a nearby state to receive an abortion. But in the ruling, the court wrote that, since the U.S. Supreme Court has already established that women have a right to abortion, "Mississippi may not shift its obligation for established constitutional rights of its citizens to another state."

Wrote Louisiana Judge Stephan A. Higginson and Mississippi Judge E. Grady Jolly: "Pre-viability, a woman has the constitutional right to end her pregnancy by abortion. H.B. 1390 effectively extinguishes that right within Mississippi's borders." Texas Judge Emilio M. Garza, the only dissenting vote in this case, wrote:

Because the undue burden test requires an assessment of the difficulty of obtaining abortion services, whether in a woman's own state or a neighboring state, and because neither the district court nor the majority has undertaken this assessment, I respectfully dissent.

There are still five states that require doctors to receive privileges at hospitals in orders to perform abortion procedures: Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wisconsin. If an abortion clinic's doctor does not have hospital privileges, the clinic can be shut down, a requirement that is opposed by the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists since it isn't medically needed.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, the group that challenged the Mississippi law, is pleased with the court's decision. The group's CEO and president, Nancy Northup, said in a statement: "Today's ruling ensures women who have decided to end pregnancy will continue to have access to safe, legal care for now in their home state."