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Lawsuit filed on behalf of anti-abortion doctors seeks to challenge a court opinion from 1998

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Former Republican U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, left, stands with pro-life supporters at a news conference Thursday April 5, 2012. The group met before a New Hampshire senate committee's hearing on a bill that would cut off taxpayer funding to hospitals, clinics, doctors and others who perform elective abortions.  
AP Photo/Jim Cole

A collective of anti-abortion medical professionals is looking to challenge an opinion on abortion rights made by the Mississippi Supreme Court almost 25 years ago. 

Lawsuit filed on behalf of anti-abortion doctors seeks to challenge court opinion from 1998

Lacey Alexander


A non-profit litigation center in the state has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Filed by the Mississippi Justice Institute, the suit looks to challenge a court opinion handed down as a result of the 1998 case "Pro-Choice Mississippi v Fordice" which states that the state constitution protects the right to an abortion. The law suit states that these doctors fear they could lose their license for refusing to refer a patient to receive abortion services if the stance is not overturned.

A statewide ban on abortion went into effect in June, but Mississippi Justice Institute director Aaron Rice says the Supreme Court opinion makes abortion in the state seem both "legal and illegal at the same time."

“Our lawsuit is seeking to clarify that,” Rice said. “and hold that abortion is not a constitutional right in Mississippi.”

The opinion has already been subject to judicial review this year. The Jackson Womens' Health Organization lost a case where they used the opinion to defend their right to stay open earlier this Summer. Matt Steffey is a professor at the Mississippi College School of Law, and he says this case seems to go beyond protecting doctors who disagree with abortion.

“What this lawsuit wants to do is strike the last remaining tape of pro-choice law off the books,” he said. “That seems more a political objective, it seems to me, than a legal one.”

The lawsuit does not cite any instances of professionals losing their licenses for refusing to refer patients to an abortion service.