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New law targets lone abortion clinic in Miss.
Question of the Day
Without the clinic, elective, legal abortions could still be available at some doctors’ offices in Mississippi _ if women know where to look in this Bible Belt state. If Mississippi physicians perform 10 or fewer abortions a month, or 100 or fewer a year, they can avoid having their offices regulated as abortion facilities.
The Mississippi State Department of Health website shows 2,297 abortions, listed as “induced terminations,” were performed in the state in 2010, the most recent year for which statistics were available. Of that number, 2,251 were performed on Mississippi residents. The site does not specify how many were done at the clinic and how many in other offices or hospitals.
The move to put new regulations on abortion comes a few months after 58 percent of Mississippi voters rejected a “personhood” ballot initiative that proposed to define life as beginning when a human egg is fertilized. After the defeat, abortion foes vowed to regroup and continue trying to find ways to make the procedure less available.
Social conservatives in Republican-controlled legislatures in other parts of the country, including Arizona and Virginia, recently have tried to pass laws to make getting an abortion more difficult.
Robert McDuff, a Jackson attorney who has handled cases for abortion-rights supporters, said he believes the new law is flawed. Documents show that in 1996, a federal judge blocked a Mississippi law that would’ve required anyone doing abortions in an abortion facility to complete an OB-GYN residency.
“A lot of politicians complain about big government, but yet they want the government to interfere with this very personal choice and force women to bear children at a point in their lives when they may not be ready to do so,” McDuff said.
Doctors who work at the Mississippi clinic live out of state because they are routinely harassed, stalked or threatened, Derzis said. Betty Thompson, who formerly managed the clinic, said the danger is not new: “We had the FBI on our speed dial.”
Frequent protester Roy McMillan of Jackson says he told a clinic doctor that his days were numbered. Since then, he’s been required to stay 40 feet away. But he hasn’t given up his fight.
“Mommy, please don’t kill me mommy! I have a dream mommy,” McMillan screamed through the windows of cars leaving the clinic.
Eight other states _ Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah _ require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges in local hospitals, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion-rights group. The states all have at least one clinic.
Jordan Goldberg, state advocacy counsel for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, said court rulings about other states’ admitting privileges requirements might not be binding if the Mississippi law is challenged.
“If the intent of the bill and the result of the bill are to shut down the only provider in the state, it may raise different constitutional questions than were raised in other cases where admitting privileges were an issue,” Goldberg said.
Dana Chisholm, president-elect of Pro-Life Mississippi, was the last protester remaining outside the clinic one afternoon this week. Her tactics were decidedly different from McMillan’s. She stood close to the entrance of the clinic and sang “Amazing Grace” and did Bible study when she was waiting for women to come outside. When they emerged, she told them she cares about them and wants to help.
Chisholm gave pamphlets to Chantal Willis, who went to clinic because she had a miscarriage.
“It’s their choice, it’s their decision,” Willis said of the clinic’s patients. “If their circumstances don’t permit a child, they should have a clinic so they can make that decision.”
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