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Ruling Saves Mississippi's Last Remaining Abortion Clinic

US appeals court affirms abortion access is a constitutional right.

The Jackson Women's Health Organization (Photo: AP)

Mississippi's last remaining abortion clinic will stay open after a U.S. federal appeals court ruling on Tuesday.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a law that required abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals, which can be difficult to acquire as doctors' applications are often ignored or rejected, both from local and out-of-state physicians. The Jackson Women's Health Organization had been denied admitting privileges at seven hospitals in the area and was at risk of losing its license.

"Today’s ruling ensures women who have decided to end a pregnancy will continue, for now, to have access to safe, legal care in their home state," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "The promise of the U.S. Constitution is one that ensures all of our rights are protected no matter where we happen to live. We will continue this fight to ensure the fundamental rights established by the U.S. Supreme Court more than 40 years ago remain a reality for women in Mississippi and across the country."

The court, which voted 2-1 on the ruling, said that abortion access is a constitutional right that must be guaranteed by all states and that the law, H.B. 1390, places an "undue burden" on women. According to Planned Parenthood v. Casey, an undue burden is "a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability," which judges said includes being forced to travel out of state, as many of the law's advocates claimed was a reasonable solution.

"Pre-viability, a woman has the constitutional right to end her pregnancy by abortion," Judge E. Grady Jolly wrote for the majority. "H.B. 1390 effectively extinguishes that right within Mississippi’s borders. Mississippi may not shift its obligation to respect the established constitutional rights of its citizens to another state."

Ten other states have similar laws, which has led to widespread closures of abortion clinics throughout the country. The Jackson Women's Health Organization has been operating since the early 1980s and has outlasted the closure of dozens of nearby clinics. If it had been forced to shut down, abortion would have been inaccessible throughout the entire state.

The American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have opposed the requirement for abortion providers to obtain hospital admitting privileges.

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