JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A federal judge is upholding part of a Mississippi law that says doctors who perform abortions must be board-certified or board-eligible in obstetrics and gynecology.
The 2012 law also says doctors doing abortions must have hospital admitting privileges. However, U.S. District Judge Dan Jordan blocked Mississippi from enforcing that portion of the law in 2012 after the state's only abortion clinic sued.
In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a Texas admitting-privileges law and declined to consider an appeal from Mississippi. The admitting-privileges portion remains blocked.
The Mississippi clinic, Jackson Women's Health Organization, asked Jordan to declare the OB-GYN requirement as an unconstitutional burden to abortion access. On Thursday, Jordan declined to do that. The judge said he's not convinced that the clinic can't find board-certified or board-eligible OB-GYNs.
Hillary Schneller is attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents the clinic. She said Friday that Mississippi is the only state that has the OB-GYN requirement.
"It will continue, as we argued, to restrict access to abortion in Mississippi," Schneller said.
She said the OB-GYN requirement removes "a huge number of qualified physicians" who have had training in performing abortions and could otherwise possibly do the procedures.
Asked if the clinic will appeal Jordan's ruling, Schneller said: "We are thinking through our next steps."
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who signed the 2012 law, praised the judge's latest ruling.
"In 2016, Mississippi State Department of Health data show that almost 2,600 abortions were performed at the state's only clinic in Jackson. That is heartbreaking," Bryant said Friday on Twitter. "This common-sense, pro-life law will help us make our state the safest place in America for an unborn child."
State attorneys said in defending the OB-GYN requirement that a physician must complete a four-year residency in obstetrics and gynecology to become board-certified or board-eligible.
Jordan wrote that because of this, he rejects opinions by plaintiffs' experts who testified the OB-GYN requirement provided no benefit to women seeking abortions. He added, though, that the provision in the 2012 law was no stronger than what had existed in a previous law.
Bryant is expected to sign a bill into law on Monday that could set the nation's tightest restriction on abortions. House Bill 1510 would ban most abortions after 15 weeks gestation. Diane Derzis, who owns Jackson Women's Health Organization, has said she will sue to try to block the ban. The state's Democratic attorney general, Jim Hood, said it would be hard to defend the law.
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