National Partnership for Women & Families

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Appeals Court Maintains Block on Miss. Admitting Privileges Law

The full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday refused to review a ruling that blocked a state law (HB 1390) that could close the state's only abortion clinic, the AP/Huffington Post reports.

The ruling means that the law remains on hold for now and that the Jackson Women's Health Organization can remain open while the underlying lawsuit proceeds (Wagster Pettus, AP/Huffington Post, 11/20).

Background

The law requires that physicians performing abortions in Mississippi have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The physicians at the Mississippi clinic sought admitting privileges at multiple hospitals but were denied, prompting the state to order the clinic to close for violating the law.

In July, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit ruled in a 2-1 decision that the law would have illegally shifted Mississippi's constitutional obligations to other states by eliminating abortion access inside the state. The ruling did not overturn the law or assess whether the admitting privileges requirement is a justified safety measure. Rather, the ruling preserved an existing stay against the law and left the lower courts to consider the measure under the now-clarified principle of state responsibility (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/30).

However, Mississippi's attorney general in August asked the full 5th circuit to review the panel's ruling (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/14).

Next Steps

When asked whether Mississippi would now ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, Jan Schaefer, a spokesperson for state AG Jim Hood (D), said the AG's office is "in the process of reviewing the order and considering our options" (AP/Huffington Post, 11/20).

Meanwhile, the Center for Reproductive Rights, which brought the lawsuit on behalf of JWHO, noted that the underlying case heads back to the U.S. District Court (CRR release, 11/20).

CRR President and CEO Nancy Northup said, "We are confident the federal district court will once again see through the sham justifications for this underhanded clinic shutdown law and ultimately strike it down permanently as a gross violation of women’s constitutional rights" (AP/Huffington Post, 11/20).