In the shadow of the Supreme Court’s decision on Texas abortion clinics on Monday was a second one, a day later, that saved the one remaining abortion clinic in all of Mississippi. The decision brought a momentary breath of relief for clinic staff, but they say they don’t expect it to mean new clinics will open in the state anytime soon.
The court on Tuesday blocked a Mississippi law that had threatened to close the clinic. That law requires all physicians at the clinic to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. All the doctors at the state’s lone abortion clinic applied for these privileges, but were denied, said Shannon Brewer, the director of Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The court’s refusal to review the Mississippi law is “definitely a victory for us,” said Brewer in a phone interview.
Located in the Fondren district at the heart of Mississippi’s capital, the clinic is hard to miss, with its bright pink façade and banners reading “This Clinic is a Refuge” and “This Clinic Stays Open.” After protesters began throwing pamphlets through its surrounding fence, staff took to weaving a heavy black fabric through the bars each day.
The state’s only other abortion clinic closed its doors in 2006. Women from across the state travel for three to four hours to the Jackson clinic for abortions or for reproductive care, including birth control and routine checkups.
The clinic is constantly embroiled in a struggle against antiabortion protestors “and the new laws they keep trying to pass,” said Brewer. Antiabortion activists, she said, “come up with these erroneous laws that have nothing to do with the health of women, and that we can’t comply with.”
In this latest case, a federal district court temporarily blocked the admission privileges requirement in 2012; the same court issued a stay in 2013, and a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld this decision in 2014.
The state of Mississippi in 2015 requested the Supreme Court to review the decision, but on Tuesday the court sent the case back to the federal district court.
Judy Batson, president of Pro-Life Mississippi, says that though her organization was not involved with the Mississippi law, it was in favor of it. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision the group plans to continue providing material to women going into the Jackson clinic.
“We try to get them to go to the Center for Pregnancy Choices, where they can get information about parenting, life, abortion, and adoption,” Batson said
“The Supreme Court did right by Mississippi women today in allowing the doors of their state’s last abortion clinic [to] remain open while this crucial legal battle continues,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the advocacy group Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement on Tuesday.
“I hope eventually more clinics will open, but with our current legislature and governor, it’s pretty hard to envision,” said Brewer. “How do you open another facility if they are trying to close the only one?”