JACKSON – (AP) Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant was to sign a bill Monday to put new requirements on doctors who work at the state’s only abortion clinic, effective July 1.
House Bill 1390 requires anyone performing abortions in an abortion facility to be an obstetrician-gynecologist with admitting privileges at a local hospital. Those privileges aren’t easy for doctors to get, either because they live out of state or because some religious-affiliated hospitals might refuse to associate with people who perform elective abortions.
Diane Derzis, who runs the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, disputes that such privileges are needed and says the requirements threaten the clinic’s existence. She said her clinic already has an agreement that allows patients with complications to be transferred immediately to a local hospital.
Derzis recently told The Associated Press that the doctors working at the clinic are OB-GYNs but only one of the three had local hospital privileges. She said the clinic will try to comply with the new regulations but if it can’t, she’ll file a lawsuit.
Republican Bryant, who became governor in January, said he wants to make Mississippi abortion-free. However, it’s not clear that the new law will accomplish that goal.
Doctors who do fewer than 10 abortions a month, or fewer than 100 a year, aren’t required to have their offices regulated as abortion facilities.
The Mississippi State Department of Health website shows 2,297 abortions, listed as “induced terminations,” were performed in the state in 2010, the most recent year for which statistics were available. Of that number, 2,251 were performed on Mississippi residents. The site does not specify how many were done at the clinic and how many in other offices or hospitals.
Abortion-rights advocates say Mississippi is enacting a law that could be found unconstitutional under the framework of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that established a nationwide right to abortion.
Those pushing the law defend its constitutionality and say admitting privileges are vital so doctors can continue to treat patients if complications arise from an abortion.
Mississippi already requires a 24-hour waiting period for an abortion and parental or judicial consent for any minor seeking the procedure. It’s also among the few states where only a single clinic operates. North Dakota and South Dakota also each have one clinic.
Robert McDuff, a Jackson attorney who has handled cases for abortion-rights supporters, said he believes the new law is flawed. Documents show that in 1996, a federal judge blocked a Mississippi law that would’ve required anyone doing abortions in an abortion facility to complete an OB-GYN residency.