(REVISED 03.21.2018) This lawsuit challenges Mississippi's attempt to end legal abortion in the state by attempting to shut down its one remaining abortion clinic. Mississippi passed a law in 2012 explicitly intended to shut down its last abortion clinic by requiring that all physicians associated with an abortion facility have admitting privileges at a local hospital.
Plaintiff(s): Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Willie Parker, M.D., MPH, MSc
Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Aaron Delaney at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton &, Garrison, LLP, Robert McDuff at McDuff &, Byrd (Jackson)
Summary: On June 27, 2012, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the last clinic in Mississippi (Jackson Women’s Health Organization), one of its physicians (obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Willie Parker) and their patients, seeking injunctive relief that would allow the clinic to stay open. The lawsuit claims that the admitting privileges requirement will harm the health of women seeking abortions and deprive them of their constitutionally-protected right to decide when and whether to have children. The Plaintiffs sought immediate relief from this unconstitutional law. After the case was filed, Dr. Parker and another physician at the clinic were unable to obtain admitting privileges at any local hospital in the Jackson area, in fact, no local hospital would even consider the physicians’ applications, with many hospitals referring to their opposition to abortion. The State argued that even if the admitting privileges requirement forced the clinic to close and eliminated all access to legal abortion in Mississippi, forcing a woman to travel out of state to exercise her rights to seek an abortion is not an undue burden. The federal district court disagreed and granted the Center’s request for a preliminary injunction, preventing the state from closing the clinic.
The State appealed, at the State's request, the federal district court suspended discovery and other proceedings while the appeal continues. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the preliminary injunction (modified to apply only to the plaintiffs in this case) on July 29, 2014, keeping the clinic open. On February 18, 2015, the State petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. On June 28, 2016, the Supreme Court denied the State's petitionj, sending the case back down to the trial court for a decision on the merits of the law.
On March 17, 2017, the district court permanently enjoined the admitting privileges law as applied to our clients, striking down the requirement for imposing an unconstitutional undue burden on a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy. On April 26, 2017, we filed a motion with the district court requesting the ob-gyn requirement also be permanently struck down and requesting the judge clarify that the injunction blocking the admitting privileges law would also apply to any future clinics that may open in the state. On March 15, 2018, the court issued a ruling clarifying that the block of the admitting privileges law does apply statewide but upholding the ob-gyn requirement. This case is now concluded except for the determination of attorneys\' fees and costs.