A federal appeals court on Tuesday spared Mississippi’s lone surviving abortion clinic that was facing closure due to a strict state law regulating the performance of abortions. The three-judge panel ruled 2-to-1 that the law’s effective closure of the Jackson Women's Health Organization is unconstitutional because eliminating abortion services altogether in the state placed an undue burden on a woman’s right to seek an abortion.
A 2012 Mississippi law requires physicians performing abortions at a clinic to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Attorneys for the state argued, in support of the law, if the clinic closed down, women could go to neighboring states to have abortions. “Mississippi may not shift its obligation to respect the established constitutional rights of its citizens to another state,” Judge Grady Jolly wrote. The panel blocked the implementation of the law until a legal challenge can be heard in court. “The ruling isn’t the final word on the law, and the appeals panel narrowed the scope of the injunction to apply only to the parties in the case,” Bloomberg reports. “As a result, any new Mississippi abortion clinics would have to file their own lawsuit.”
Texas and Ohio have laws similar to Mississippi’s that have forced the closure of a large number of clinics in those states and a federal appeals court ruled earlier this year that Texas’ restrictions were legally valid. With Tuesday’s ruling on Mississippi’s law, however, “the judges signaled that while closing many clinics is OK, a law that forces the closure of a state's very last clinic is not,” according to NPR.