- Associated Press - Sunday, April 27, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A federal appeals court panel on Monday will hear arguments for, and against, a 2012 Mississippi law that threatens to close the state’s only abortion clinic.

The law requires any physician who does abortions at a clinic to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has been unable to obtain them.

U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III let the law take effect in July 2012, after the clinic sued the state. But Jordan blocked the state from closing the clinic while it tried to comply.

The clinic remains open and has out-of-state physicians who travel to Mississippi to do abortions several times a month. Hospitals often will only grant admitting privileges to local physicians. For years, the clinic has had an agreement with a local physician who will meet a patient at a Jackson hospital in case of complications at the clinic. Clinic owner Diane Derzis has said complications are rare.

Three judges on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans are scheduled to hear arguments over the Mississippi law.

The state is asking the appeals court to overturn Jordan’s ruling that has allowed the clinic to stay open. The clinic is asking that the law be permanently blocked. It’s unclear when the judges will rule.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who signed the law, has said repeatedly that he wants to end abortion in Mississippi. He and other supporters of the law say it is designed to protect patient safety.

The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights is arguing on behalf of the Mississippi clinic. The director of the center’s U.S. legal program, Bebe Anderson, said the Mississippi law is “one example of the types of attacks that are happening all across the country to try to stop access to safe, legal, high-quality abortion services.”

“Admitting privileges requirements aren’t needed in order to protect women’s health and, in fact, are harmful to women’s health because they cause good abortion providers to be unable to provide the services,” Anderson said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “And, as we’ve seen in Texas, they cause clinics to close.”

Attorneys defending the Mississippi law were not immediately available for interviews on Friday.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hears cases from Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. In late March, the appeals court upheld a 2013 Texas law that puts several restrictions on abortion clinics, including requiring their physicians to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. After that, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a new lawsuit challenging parts of the Texas abortion law, including the admitting privileges requirement.

Texas has 24 abortion clinics, but the Center for Reproductive Rights says only six of them could meet all the requirements in the law it is challenging.

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