JACKSON, Miss. (CNS) — A federal judge allowed Mississippi’s only abortion clinic to remain open while it continued to work toward compliance with a new state law permitting only certain doctors to perform abortions there.
District Court Judge Daniel P. Jordan III of Jackson partially lifted the injunction on a law that had been scheduled to take effect July 1 but continued to block sections of the law imposing civil or criminal penalties on violators.
The law requires that abortions be performed only by obstetricians-gynecologists with privileges to admit patients to local hospitals. Currently neither of the out-of-state doctors who perform abortions at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization has such privileges.
“The act will be allowed to take effect, but plaintiffs will not be subject to the risk of criminal or civil penalties at this time or in the future for operating without the relevant privileges,” said Jordan in his July 13 decision.
“Given the highly charged political context of this case and the ambiguity still present, the court finds that there would be a chilling effect on the plaintiffs’ willingness to continue operating the clinic until they obtained the necessary privileges,” he added.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said the state would “continue to defend this important measure as the legal process moves forward.”
Closure of the Jackson clinic would bring an end to abortions performed in Mississippi; about 2,000 abortions take place there each year.
A spokeswoman for Bishop Joseph N. Latino of Jackson said the bishop has taken no public stance on the bill or the lawsuit.
Meanwhile, a federal hearing officer considering Indiana’s new law prohibiting the use of state funds for services provided by Planned Parenthood to Medicaid patients said the law is unacceptable, putting at risk the state’s more than $4 billion in federal Medicaid funding.
Hearing Officer Benjamin Cohen of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the law violated the rights of Medicaid patients to choose their own health care provider. Cohen recommended to the centers’ administrators that Indiana’s request for an exception to the Medicaid rules be turned down, and his recommendation was accepted.
Federal law already prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortions for Medicaid recipients, but Indiana’s law forbids any Department of Health contracts with groups performing abortions, except hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers.
The Indiana law also prohibits any abortions in the state after the 20th week of pregnancy, except in cases where the life or health of the mother is at risk.
An injunction against enforcement of the law has been in effect since it was signed into law in 2011, and a lawsuit to remove the injunction is pending before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
A suit pending before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York is designed to compel New York state to issue a “Choose Life” license plate supporting the work of pregnancy care centers.
The case was filed by the Children First Foundation after its application for a “Choose Life” plate was denied. The organization contends that it met all the requirements for a custom plate under New York law but was denied because the plate carried a pro-life message.
New York offers dozens of custom license plates for a wide variety of sports teams, organizations, professions and causes.
Currently, “Choose Life” plates are available in 27 states, with plates pending in two additional states.