JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi's effort to close its last abortion clinic was overturned in federal appellate court on Tuesday. Advocates for the law said women with unwanted pregnancies could always travel to other states, but the judges said every state must guarantee constitutional rights, including abortion.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to block Mississippi's 2012 law requiring abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
Ten states have adopted similar laws, forcing a growing number of clinics to close. Many hospitals ignore or reject abortion doctors' applications, and won't grant privileges to out-of-state physicians. Both obstacles were encountered by the traveling doctors who staff Mississippi's lone clinic, the Jackson Women's Health Organization.
"Today's ruling ensures women who have decided to end a pregnancy will continue, for now, to have access to safe, legal care in their home state," said Center for Reproductive Rights president Nancy Northup.
The ruling from the conservative 5th Circuit was narrowly crafted to address the situation in Mississippi, but it could have implications for other states with similar laws and dwindling access to abortion, like Wisconsin and Alabama, whose officials have said women could cross state lines if clinics close, said the center's litigation director, Julie Rikelman.
Attorneys for Mississippi argued that if the state's last clinic closed, women could still get abortions in other states. But the judges said the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision established a constitutional right to abortion for all citizens — and that Mississippi may not shift its obligations to other states.
"Pre-viability, a woman has the constitutional right to end her pregnancy by abortion," wrote judges E. Grady Jolly of Mississippi and Stephen A. Higginson of Louisiana. The law signed by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant "effectively extinguishes that right within Mississippi's borders," they said.
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