Supreme Court delays ruling on strict Mississippi abortion law until fall

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The Supreme Court has delayed ruling on a Mississippi law that would shut down the state's last abortion clinic and place similarly strict abortion laws in at least 14 states under scrutiny.


The law was struck down by a Mississippi appeals court a year ago. It would have required doctors at abortion clinics in the state to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Because the law would have shut down the state’s last clinic and forced women seeking abortions to rely on services in other states, Judge E. Grady Jolly ruled the law unconstitutional.

“A state cannot lean on its sovereign neighbors to provide protection of its citizens’ federal constitutional rights,” he wrote in his opinion.

While waiting for the Supreme Court to decide if they will review his decision or not, the clinic remains open.

Some advocates, like CUNY professor of law Caitlin Borgmann, say laws like these are aimed at shutting down clinics, not making them safer for patients. They refer to legislation like this as TRAP laws—Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers.

“Some TRAP laws require abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, even though hospitalization after abortion is extremely rare, and trained emergency room personnel are legally required to treat patients in such circumstances,” wrote Borgmann in the Los Angeles Times.

While the Mississippi law was worded to suggest it aimed to make sure abortion clinics are safe for women, state Governor Phil Bryant has said his intention with the law is to end abortion.


“On this unfortunate anniversary of Roe versus Wade, my goal is to end abortion in Mississippi,” Bryant told CBS Washington in an interview last year, also referencing the Supreme Court decision from 1973 that gave women abortion rights.

Laws that mandate clinics have some connection to nearby hospitals exist in 14 states, and laws that specifically require doctors to have admitting privileges are in effect in five states, according to the Guttmacher Institute.


In some states this has had the effect of shutting down multiple abortion clinics: In Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, and South Dakota there is just one clinic left.

On Monday, the Supreme Court granted a stay temporarily blocking possibly the most well-known of these cases— a Texas law made famous by senator Wendy Davis’ 11-hour filibuster. The legislation eventually passed, and also made it through a Texas appeals court, but reproductive rights advocates filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court. The court's order yesterday stops many of the state's 19 clinics from being shut down until the court decides whether or not to review the decision (something we're also likely to find out in the fall).


The court’s decision on whether to take up the Mississippi case, Currier v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and the Texas case, Whole Woman's Health v Lakey, will bring those laws back into question again—and the outcome could affect appeals that are underway in several of those states.

Last week, the court decided not to review a North Carolina law requiring pregnant women to have narrated ultrasounds before having abortions.