A U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a restrictive Texas abortion law on Monday appears to be the end of the road for Mississippi’s efforts to enforce a 2012 law that requires abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges.
Monday’s 5-3 decision struck down a Texas law that required abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. Those standards ranged from square footage requirements to a variety of rules regarding heating, lighting, ventilation and plumbing.
The Texas law also required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles.
Texas officials said the law, HB2, was designed to protect the health and safety of abortion patients. But attorneys for Whole Woman’s Health, which operates abortion clinics in Texas, said the measure imposed an undue burden on patients, because it would close nearly 4 out of every 5 Texas abortion clinics and keep new ones from opening.
The Supreme Court agreed. In the majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer said neither of the law’s requirements provided “medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes.”
The ruling, in all likelihood, will halt Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s efforts to enforce a similar Mississippi law that has been rejected several times by lower courts.
The ruling, in all likelihood, will halt Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s efforts to enforce a similar state law that has been rejected several times by lower courts.
Mississippi’s H.B. 1390 requires that all “physicians associated with the abortion facility must have admitting privileges at a local hospital and staff privileges to replace local hospital on-staff physicians.”
Attorney Robert McDuff of Jackson challenged the law in U.S. District Court on behalf of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s only abortion clinic. They sought a preliminary injunction and a restraining order to block enforcement in 2012.
The U.S. District Court allowed the state to enforce the law’s requirement on admitting privileges but barred the state from imposing criminal and civil penalties while Dr. Willie Parker and another unnamed clinic physician sought the required hospital privileges.
Several state efforts to appeal the District Court ruling were unsuccessful before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Mississippi Department of Health then appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was put on hold, pending resolution of the Texas case.
In a statement provided to the Sun Herald, a McClatchy property, McDuff declared victory on Monday.
“The Supreme Court decision in the Texas case confirms that the Mississippi law requiring abortion doctors to have visiting privileges is also unconstitutional. That law has previously been declared unconstitutional by the federal District Court in Mississippi and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Those decisions will remain in place,” McDuff’s statement read.
Rachel Ring, a spokesperson for Hood, said, “We are reviewing the decision and analyzing the potential impact.”
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, who has made clear his desire to make abortions unavailable in Mississippi, took to Twitter to express his disappointment.
Bryant said the Texas law was designed to “protect the health and safety of women who undergo this potentially dangerous procedure.” He added that “physicians who provide abortions should be held to the same standards as physicians who perform other outpatient procedures.”
Parker, who was in Washington on Monday in support of Texas colleagues, said he was “excited and relieved” by the decision and its impact on Mississippi.
“I’ve always practiced in my mind with the notion that what makes this care appropriate and right is that it is part of a woman’s human right,” he said. “I provide abortion care as a matter of conscience and a deep belief that women’s health and well-being are an entitlement that they hold. If abortion is what they need to accomplish their reproductive health goals, and to protect their health, then I think it’s important to provide that care.”