Mississippi Could Soon Be the First State Without an Abortion ClinicS

Jackson Women's Health Organization has been the only abortion clinic in Mississippi since 2004. Super coincidentally, the state — the poorest in the country — has the highest teen pregnancy rate, more than 60 percent above the national average in 2010. But Mississippi's legislators fail to see the correlation between the state's low abortion rate and high babies-having-babies rate and would like more of the latter, please: as of Monday, a new law might finally do away with Mississippi's lone clinic. Why, yes, it is 2012, thanks for asking!

This spring, Mississippi's Republican Governor Phil Bryant signed a measure into law that requires abortion providers to be board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and to have physicians with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Sounds super reasonable and safe, right? That's what the lawmakers hope: their attempts to ban all abortions last fall by defining life at the moment eggs are fertilized (see: Personhood movement) didn't go over so well with selfish voters who care about their own right to choose, so this time around they're returning to the good ol' "This protects the ladies!" justification.

Republican Representative Sam Mims who sponsored the law said the law helps make sure patients are getting the safest care possible, and that they can go to a local hospital in cases of emergency. That would be awesome — and, as it happens, the clinic's main three doctors already are board-certified OB-GYNs. But the clinic is having trouble getting the support of the state's nearby hospitals, especially since the physicians all travel from outside of Mississippi. "The political climate is very hostile, particularly for the hospitals," Betty Thompson, spokeswoman for Jackson Women's Health Organization, told Reuters. "I understand the position they're in as well, however, there is no legal or reasonable reason for us not to be available to take care of our own patients if we have problems."

There's no legal or reasonable reason because the lawmakers aren't prioritizing women's health; they're working diligently towards their ultimate goal of banning all abortions in the state. It's the Personhood movement all over again, wrapped up in more palatable rhetoric. Mims said it would be a "positive result" if the law happens to cause the state to have fewer abortions. Uh, he must mean NO abortions, because there won't be a place for the state's women to safely undergo the procedure if the clinic is unable to comply with the new law.

The legislation "puts an undue burden on women of all classes and colors," Thompson said, since women would be forced to travel to other states if they needed an abortion. "I see us going back to the early '70s and what happened to women who did not have access. They tried to induce it for themselves or they went to people who were not qualified to do the procedures, and they sometimes died."

Some state politicians, like Bubba Carpenter, have agreed that women could return to "coat hanger" abortions, but don't think it's that big a deal because the state has "to start somewhere." Just what every woman needs: a man named Bubba advising her to stick a hanger up her vagina as a last resort. Mims, however, isn't stressing in the slightest, because he feels confident that any lady who wanted an abortion will see the light if she is literally unable to get one. "I'm not at all worried," Mims said. "My hope is that the women that are making these choices will now choose life, that they will realize that life begins at conception." Wishful thinking: now state-mandated by your local representatives!

If state officials decide that Jackson Women's Health Organization has violated the new law next Monday — as they likely will — the clinic has 10 working days to submit a plan detailing their next steps. Well, not if Mims can help it — he said he doesn't "want to give the facility 10 extra days to perform abortions" and is trying to wiggle his way out of the grace period. "If this abortion clinic is closed, I think it's a great day for Mississippi," he told the New York Times last weekend. A great day for whom?

New law could close Mississippi's sole abortion clinic [Reuters]