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Judge could decide whether Mississippi will become 'abortion-free'

Mississippi’s only abortion clinic may close if a federal judge allows a state law to take effect. The decision could become 'a road map for how to close abortion clinics in other states.' 

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Proponents of the law say it’s intended to raise standards for women’s health care in the state. If the judge allows the law to take effect, Mississippi would join 37 states that have similar requirements, they add.

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But statements by public officials, including Governor Bryant, claiming that the purpose of the law is to shut down this specific abortion clinic and thus, for all practical purposes, end abortions in the state, could play a key role in the case. Jordan has yet to decide if he will include the statements in his deliberations, but in one hint, he used news clippings about the political machinations around the law in his decision to temporarily stall it on July 1.

While many legal experts believe the clinic will prevail, at least for now, anti-abortion activists say they’ll go the distance to appeal the case – if necessary, to the US Supreme Court. At the very least, it’s likely that the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will at some point get the case, setting the law at least for Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.

"Every pro-life law that has been passed in Mississippi has been challenged and followed by an injunction to stop enforcement," Terri Herring, the state’s chief anti-abortion activist, told Reuters. "All of our laws, though, have eventually been upheld as constitutional."

They’ve also proven effective. In the early 1980s, Mississippi had 14 abortion clinics. Now, with one, the state has one of the lowest abortion rates in the country. It also has the highest teenage pregnancy rate, with 55 births per 1,000 teens over 15 years old, compared with the national average of 34 births per 1,000 teens, a historic low.

The political overtones are being heard nationally, largely because Mississippi has emerged as a major abortion-rights battleground and because of the symbolism around Mississippi potentially becoming the only US state without an abortion clinic. Women with unwanted pregnancies would have to travel in excess of 200 miles to clinics in surrounding states if they wanted an abortion.

But while Mississippi seems a natural choice to test the limits of constitutional protections for women seeking abortions, there’s also pushback from what some say is the state’s silent majority. A referendum last year to give fetuses “personhood” under the state constitution – which could have made abortion murder in some cases – was opposed by 55 percent of Mississippians.


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