A federal judge on Wednesday continued to block a law that threatened to shut down Mississippi's only abortion clinic and make it nearly impossible for a woman in one of the poorest states in the U.S. to get the procedure.
U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III temporarily blocked the state law July 1 and extended that order Wednesday. He did not say how long it would last.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states can't place undue burdens or substantial obstacles for women seeking abortion. The law would require anyone performing clinic abortions to be an OB-GYN with privileges to admit patients to a local hospital. The doctors at the clinic do not have those privileges, and the clinic says the privileges aren't medically necessary.
Supporters of the law say it's designed to protect patients. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant says he hopes it will help make Mississippi "abortion-free."
The clinic, Jackson Women's Health Organization, says it has been unable to obtain admitting privileges for its two out-of-state OB-GYNs because local hospitals have not responded to their requests. The privileges can be difficult to get because hospitals might not grant them to out-of-state physicians, or hospitals with religious affiliations might not give them to doctors who perform abortions.
"If they're denied or if the hospitals are dragging their feet, that's going to be more clear evidence that there's a substantial obstacle" to access to an abortion, clinic attorney Robert McDuff said.
The clinic uses out-of-state physicians because in-state physicians generally don't want to face the social pressure of having protesters at their offices, homes or churches, clinic employees say.
The government said the privileges help protect patients by ensuring they have continuity of care if a woman needs to go to the hospital.
Opponents of the law say any patient experiencing complications could receive immediate care from emergency room physicians. Clinic owner Diane Derzis said since she acquired Jackson Women's Health Organization in 2010, no woman has had to be taken from the clinic by ambulance.
The state attorney general's office declined to comment after the hearing.
Clinic operators say almost all the abortions in the state are done in their building. They say in court papers that the clinic did about 3,000 abortions in 18 months.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press