Mississippi's Only Abortion Clinic Survives, For Now

Image credit: Suzi Altma/ZUMAPRESS

A federal district judge in Mississippi prevented the state's only abortion clinic from being shut down on Sunday by putting a temporary restraining order on a law that would require the clinic's doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

If the law, which passed the state Legislature in April, would have taken effect as scheduled on July 1, Mississippi would be the only state in the country where women would not have access to abortions.

The only abortion clinic in the state, Jackson Women's Health Organization, has two OB-GYN doctors who perform abortions, both of whom applied for admitting privileges at area hospitals "months" ago, said the clinic's owner Diane Derzis. None of the hospitals have responded to those requests.

"We can't do anything else; we are waiting for the hospitals," Derzis told ABC News. "I'm sure those hospitals are going to be threatened and harassed just like we are."

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U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan wrote in the court opinion that there was no evidence against the clinic's claims that "law's purpose is to eliminate abortions in Mississippi" and that "no safety or health concerns motivated its passage."

Jordan will decide at a July 11 hearing whether to grant a permanent injunction against the law to keep the Jackson clinic open.

When the bill passed in April, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant heralded it as "the first step" to making Mississippi the first abortion-free state. Bryant accused the bill's Democratic opponents of having one goal: "to abort children."

"Their one mission in life is to abort children, is to kill children in the womb," Bryant told conservative radio host Tony Perkins in April.

Following the court's restraining order Sunday night, Byrant's spokesman Mick Bullock said the governor was "disappointed" but will work to "ensure this legislation properly takes effect as soon as possible."

Mississippi already has one of the lowest abortion rates in the country, with a mere 0.2 percent of all the abortions given in the United States in 2008 taking place in Mississippi, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual health research group.

Similar laws were passed in Arizona and Tennessee that require abortion-performing doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

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