Only Miss. abortion clinic can't comply with law
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi's only abortion clinic missed a Friday deadline to comply with a 2012 state law that requires each of its physicians to get hospital admitting privileges — a law the governor said he signed with the hopes of shutting the clinic down.
The state Health Department won't immediately close the clinic, Jackson Women's Health Organization. The department will set an inspection later, and if it orders a shutdown, the clinic can appeal.
Clinic administrator Diane Derzis said every Jackson-area hospital where the clinic applied for privileges said no.
"They were clear that they didn't deal with abortion and they didn't want the internal or the external pressure of dealing with it," Derzis told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday.
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has said repeatedly that he wants Mississippi to be abortion-free.
"My goal, of course, is to shut it down," Bryant said Thursday. "Now, we'll follow the laws. The bill is in the courts now, related to the physicians and their association with a hospital. But, certainly, if I had the power to do so legally, I'd do so tomorrow."
The law requires anyone doing abortions in a clinic to be an OB-GYN with privileges to admit patients to a hospital near the facility where the abortions are done. The clinic filed a lawsuit last summer. U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III gave the facility time to try to comply with the law, blocking any criminal or civil penalties while the clinic tried to do so.
Admitting privileges can be difficult to obtain. Some hospitals won't issue them to out-of-state physicians, while hospitals that are affiliated with religious groups might not want to associate with anyone who does elective abortions.
One of the clinic's four physicians has admitting privileges, but the clinic said in court papers that he does little work at the clinic and he had the privileges before the new law took effect last July. The other three don't have privileges.
Even if the clinic's physicians don't have admitting privileges, a patient can be transferred from the clinic to a hospital emergency room, if needed. The clinic has said the customary practice is for a hospital to remain in contact with the physician who transferred the patient to the emergency room, regardless of whether that physician has admitting privileges at the hospital.
In November, the clinic asked Jordan to extend its time to comply with the law. Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood on Friday filed a 35-page response, saying the law should take full effect because it's designed to protect patients' safety.
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