The fate of Mississippi’s only abortion clinic is now in the hands of three federal appeals court judges. MPB’s Evelina Burnett was in New Orleans yesterday for the hearing before the Fifth Circut Court of Appeals.
About 45 people, a standing-room only crowd, filled the courtroom to watch the arguments. The three judges peppered both attorneys with questions as they heard arguments about the 2012 law that requires Mississippi doctors who work at abortion clinics to have hospital admitting privileges.
An injunction temporarily stopped the law last year, and the state, represented by attorney Paul Barnes, is appealing that decision.
Barnes, who declined to speak after the hearing, argued in court, the law was about maternal health, saying, quote, “the constitution doesn’t protect or provide for a woman’s right to have an unsafe abortion.”
Terri Herring of the Pro-Life America Network in Jackson was in New Orleans for the hearing. "What we've had to deal with is a criteria that gives the abortion industry a constitutional right to bad medicine," she says. "We know, and we've studied, that admitting privileges are the standard of care."
Julie Rikelman represented the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the state’s only abortion clinic. She says the law imposes more regulation on abortion providers than other doctors, and would create an undue burden on women seeking abortions.
Supporters of the clinic were in good spirits after the hearing, optimistic based on some of the questions the judges asked the state. Clinic owner Diane Derzis says she felt very positive.
"I'm cautiously optimistic," she says.
The judges didn't indicate when they would rule, but the Fifth Circuit court has said its goal is to issue an opinion within 60 days after an argument.
Until or unless the judges rule otherwise, the Jackson clinic remains open.