Republican-Appointed Judge Halts Closure of Mississippi’s Last Abortion Facility

Jackson, Mississippi — A judge appointed by George W. Bush has stepped in to halt the closure of the last abortion facility in Mississippi.

As previously reported, Jackson Women’s Health Organization was to face a closure hearing this Thursday before the state Health Department, which had issued the facility a letter in January outlining its intent to close the location for its failure to comply with the law. The abortion facility had been unable to find a local hospital to grant admitting privileges, which was required under a new statute passed in February 2012.

After the bill became law, representatives for Jackson Women’s Health Organization filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block state requirements. During a hearing last July, the facility explained in court that it had been unsuccessful in obtaining the admitting privileges, and was granted six months of additional time to comply with the law under the direction of federal judge Daniel P. Jordan III.

However, it missed the next deadline as it was rejected by all of the hospitals in the area. On January 16th, the Mississippi Health Department visited the location to perform an inspection, and confirmed that none of the three abortionists that work at Jackson Women’s Health Organization, all of which reside in other states, obtained admitting privileges.

It is noted that some hospitals prefer not to issue privileges to out-of-state doctors, but administrator Diane Derzis said that many of the local hospitals indicated that they did not want to partner with an abortion facility.

“They were clear that they didn’t deal with abortion and they didn’t want the internal or the external pressure of dealing with it,” she said.

Therefore, the Mississippi Health Department issued a notice that it intended to close the facility. It also noted on its report that the location had too few parking spaces as state law requires that abortion facilities be “located in an attractive setting with sufficient parking space provided.” Jackson Women’s Health Organization has room for less than 20 cars. Administrators were subsequently ordered to present a plan outlining how they intend to increase parking space in order to comply with state law.

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On Monday, Judge Jordan issued an extension of his federal injunction, granting the facility time to remain open. He declared that the Mississippi Health Department could not close Jackson Women’s Health Organizationwhile it has a lawsuit underway challenging the legality of the state’s admitting privileges law. Officials advise that the requirement was meant to serve as a safeguard to protect women that need critical medical care.

However, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has been forthright in his desire to see the abortion facility closed for good.

“My goal, of course, is to shut it down,” he told reporters earlier this year. “Now, we’ll follow the laws. The bill is in the courts now, related to the physicians and their association with a hospital. But, certainly, if I had the power to do so legally, I’d do so tomorrow.”

It is not known when a ruling will be released regarding the constitutionality of the challenged statute.

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