Mississippi has just one abortion clinic in the entire state but, thanks to a new law signed by Republican governor Phil Bryant this week, it may not be able to provide services for much longer.
[Related: What happens when pro-choice isn't an option?]
House Bill 1390 requires abortion providers in the state to also be board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology. It also requires that they have staff and admitting privileges at a hospital near the abortion facility, even if that facility is the doctor's office. The law goes into effect on July 1.
"I believe that all human life is precious, and as governor, I will work to ensure that the lives of the born and unborn are protected in Mississippi," Bryant said in a statement after signing the law.
Diane Derzis, the owner of the Jackson Women's Health Organizaion, Mississippi's only abortion facility, told the Associated Press that all three of the doctors who work for her are OB/GYNs, but only one of them has admitting privileges at a local hospital. Patients who experience complications during a procedure are already transferred immediately to the local hospital, she said.
"We are going to do everything we can to remain there," she ">told CNN. "We are not going to let the women of Mississippi down."
Felixia Brown-Williams, regional director of public policy for Planned Parenthood in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, called the law "a backdoor ban on abortions." There's no medical reason to require that the doctor's performing abortions be OB/GYNs or be connected to a local hospital, she pointed out. According to data from the Guttmacher Institute in Washington, D.C., eight other states -- Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah -- require abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges, but no other state requires them to also be an OB/GYN. Doctors are rarely eligible for those staff and admitting privileges if they live out of state, and hospitals with religious affiliations can refuse to give that type of access to doctors who perform abortions.
In Arizona, Republican Governor Jan Brewer last week signed into law a bill that would make it nearly impossible for women to obtain a non-surgical abortion via medication taken during the first nine weeks of pregnancy, The Daily Beast reported. That new law requires abortion providers who offer the abortifacient to have hospital privileges within 30 miles of wherever the procedure takes place. Given that patients often take the medication at their homes or at clinics that are not within 30 miles of any hospital, the law -- which also requires that the medication be administered using outdated protocols instead of current instructions -- effectively eliminates the option of non-surgical abortion for many women there.
Like the Arizona law, the Mississippi bill "puts in place requirements that intentionally try to make it impossible for physicians to provide abortion services," Brown-Williams told CNN.
Mississippi Lt. Governor Tate Reeves has previously lauded the bill as one that "should effectively close the only abortion clinic in Mississippi." But Jordan Goldberg, the state advocacy counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, pointed out that if the the law could pose a constitutional problem.
"It's not about medicine," she said. "It's just about politics."
Governor Bryant agrees.
"Today, you see the first step in a movement, I believe, to do what we campaigned on -- to say we're going to try to end abortion in Mississippi," he said after signing the bill. "If it closes that clinic, then so be it."
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