Mississippi's last abortion clinic hangs in the balance

The state is attempting to revoke the clinic's license, citing noncompliance with a 2012 law for abortion providers

Published February 1, 2013 5:06PM (EST)

Last week, the Mississippi Department of Health served the Jackson Women's Health Organization, the last remaining abortion provider in the state, a notice of intent to revoke the clinic's license. According to state officials, the clinic has failed to comply with a 2012 law requiring that all doctors performing abortions at the facility also have hospital admitting privileges, which reproductive health advocates argue is an arbitrary regulation intended to shutter clinics and effectively ban abortion.

The Jackson clinic has applied for admitting privileges with seven area hospitals, but has been rejected each time. State law allows healthcare facilities to refuse any medical service on religious grounds, which extends to granting admitting privileges, leading critics to conclude that the denials are politically motivated.

And, of course, they are.

Mississippi state lawmakers have been systematically scaling back women's access to abortion services for years, but 2012's Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) law could be the measure that succeeds in shuttering the state's last standing clinic, making it virtually abortion-free.

The clinic will remain open while it waits for a hearing by the state's health department, which is expected to be announced any day now. As reported by the Clarion Ledger:

It has 10 calendar days to make the request to the Department of Health. Afterward, the department has 30 calendar days in which to set a hearing, said department spokeswoman Liz Sharlot.

The hearing will be open to the public and conducted by a hearing officer appointed by the department. The officer may or may not issue an immediate decision, Sharlot said.

In the meantime, attorneys for the Jackson clinic have requested a temporary injunction to block the law’s enforcement while it argues its constitutionality. If clinic lawyers fail to get an injunction, the Jackson Women's Health Organization could close its brilliantly pink doors for good, leaving the women of Mississippi -- 40 years after Roe v. Wade -- with no means of accessing their constitutionally protected right to safe, legal abortion.

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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Abortion Mississippi Reproductive Health Reproductive Rights