Mississippi's Governor Tightens Restrictions On Abortion Providers

By: CNN (Posted by Kion Hudson)
By: CNN (Posted by Kion Hudson)

(CNN)-- Mississippi's governor has signed into law a bill requiring physicians performing abortions in the state to be a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and to have admitting privileges at an area hospital.

"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," Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement Monday.

He has previously expressed his desire that the state become "abortion free."

Seven other states require abortion providers to have hospital privileges, but no other state requires that an abortion provider be an OB/GYN, said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute in Washington.

Though the 1973 Supreme Court landmark decision in Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in all 50 states, Mississippi's law could make the state the first where no abortions could be performed, she said.

"It's an attempt to eliminate access without taking on Roe directly."

Mississippi has only one abortion facility, Jackson Women's Health Organization. Should it close, Mississippi women seeking abortions would have to leave the state.

The clinic's owner, Diane Derzis, said in a telephone interview this month that all her doctors are obstetrician-gynecologists, but only one has admitting privileges at an area hospital. She vowed to fight to remain open.

"We are going to do everything we can to remain there ... we are not going to let the women of Mississippi down," said Derzis.

But Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves previously said that the bill "should effectively close the only abortion clinic in Mississippi."

The bill "puts in place requirements that intentionally try to make it impossible for physicians to provide abortion services," Felicia Brown-Williams, regional director of public policy for Planned Parenthood in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, said in early April.

There is no medical reason to require physicians performing abortions be board-certified OB/GYNs or that they have admitting privileges, she said. If the clinic stops offering abortion services because it is unable to find providers with those qualifications, the bill "would be a backdoor ban on abortion."

The Center for Reproductive Rights' state advocacy counsel, Jordan Goldberg, said that, if the goal of the legislation is to impose restrictions on abortion providers that are not imposed on other medical providers offering similar care, then "that would raise serious constitutional problems and a legal challenge would certainly be possible."

"It's not about medicine," she said. "It's just about politics."

Last year, the state introduced a bill known as the Personhood Amendment, which would have defined life as beginning at the moment of conception. The bill was defeated by voters in November.

In 2008, the last year for which data are available, 2,770 abortions were performed in the state, according to Guttmacher.


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