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Today, the Center for Reproductive Rights won a temporary restraining order on behalf of the Jackson Women's Health Organization (JWHO) against a new abortion law in Mississippi. The law would have banned abortions after the first trimester of pregnancy being performed in any facility other than licensed hospitals or ambulatory surgical facilities. But U.S. District Court Judge Tom Lee temporarily stopped the legislation from going into effect. There will be a hearing on July 16, at which time the court will decide whether to grant a preliminary injunction.
The legislation was signed by the Governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, on May 27 and was scheduled to go into effect a little over a month later, on July 1. The Jackson Women's Health Organization tried to apply for an ambulatory surgical facility license after the law was signed, but the process actually takes several months and JWHO would not receive a license at least until November.
"The state is being utterly reckless with women's health, legislating these new rules without giving any of the abortion providers in Mississippi the time necessary to go through the application process," said Simon Heller, Center for Reproductive Rights attorney. "Thankfully, the court has granted a temporary restraining order against this law, which will ensure that women in Mississippi continue to have access to second-trimester abortions until the court can evaluate this law in the upcoming hearing."
The Jackson Women's Health Organization is only one of two clinics in Mississippi that provide second-trimester abortions. Only one licensed hospital in Mississippi is known to perform abortions and only under extreme circumstances. If the law had remained in effect, women in Mississippi seeking second-trimester abortions would have to travel as far as Louisiana or Alabama to obtain them.
Nearly 400 women a year receive second-trimester abortions in Mississippi. Many of them have difficulty paying for the procedure and must wait until they've raised the necessary funds. Others don't recognize they are pregnant, misjudge the gestation period or take time deciding to have an abortion, and end up obtaining the procedure later in pregnancy.
The plaintiff in this case is the Jackson Women's Health Organization. The clinic is represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights and S. Mark Wann of the Jackson firm Maxey Wann PPLC. The defendants are Brian Amy, State Health Officer for the Mississippi State Department of Health, S. Malcolm O. Harrison, Hinds County Attorney, and Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi.
For more information on regulation of abortion providers, see our factsheet Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP): Avoiding the TRAP.