NRL News

Appeals Court panel hears challenge to Mississippi abortion law

by | Apr 28, 2014


By Dave Andrusko

The courtroom was packed today as a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard a challenge to a Mississippi law that requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Last month a similar Texas law was upheld by a different three-judge panel  in that case, Judges Edith Jones, Catharina Haynes, and Jennifer Walker Elrod wrote a 34-page opinion that carefully outlined why the provisions are not an “undue burden” on the right to abortion.

The 5th Circuit, based in New Orleans, handles cases from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

Mississippi’s case is different because the challenge comes from the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the state’s lone abortion clinic which is owned by the flamboyant Diane Derzis (see;; and

Judge E. Grady Jolly

Judge E. Grady Jolly

Arguing on behalf of the abortion clinic, Julie Rikelman told judges E. Grady Jolly, Emile Garza, and Stephen Higginson the clinic had been unable to obtain hospital admitting privileges. Those admitting privileges were not needed, she argued, because “the Jackson clinic has competent doctors, with the ability to transfer patients who need emergency treatment transferred,” the Associated Press’s Kevin McGill reported

Judge Emilo Garza

Judge Emilo Garza

Paul Barnes, of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, countered “that the law was a legitimate, constitutional exercise of state power,” according to McGill. “The Supreme Court has held that the Constitution guarantees the right to an abortion, but not an unsafe one, Barnes told judges. And he said the law is designed to ensure the health and safety of Mississippi women.”

Judge Stephen Higginson

Judge Stephen Higginson

According to McGill, in responding to Barnes, Judge Grady said, “It seems to me you’ve got a steep hill to climb when you say the only clinic in the state is closing.”

By contrast Judge Garza specifically addressed health concerns in responding to Rikelman. “Even in a colonoscopy, if that goes south, you’re talking about a life or death situation,” he said.

Passed in 2012, HB 1390 was originally set to go into effect July 1, 2012. But at the eleventh hour Judge Daniel P. Jordan temporarily blocked Mississippi from enforcing the law. He later extended the temporary restraining order.

Judge Jordan has also blocked any civil or criminal penalties against the Jackson Women’s Health Organization and its employees. The effect of Judge Jordan’s decision is to enjoin the state of Mississippi from enforcing the admitting privileges requirement of HB 1390 while the clinic’s lawsuit proceeds.

Prior to the issuance of the Judge Jordan’s first TRO, Mississippi State Representative Sam Mims, who sponsored HB 1390, explained in an interview with CNN, “I think the intent is to make sure that women who are receiving these abortions are receiving abortions by a professional physician who is certified.” He added, “If something goes wrong, which it might — we hope it doesn’t, but it could — that physician could follow the patient to a local hospital. That’s the intent.”

Categories: Abortionist