Skip to content

Mississippi’s last abortion clinic closes as trigger ban begins

Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, will close its doors on Wednesday after business closed following a trial judge’s refusal to block the law triggering abortion from taking effect. state, instituting an almost total ban on abortion.

“Without any further action, today will be the last day Jackson Women’s Health can provide abortion care,” said Hillary Schneller, senior attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights who represents the clinic. “This means Mississippi’s last abortion provider will no longer be able to provide essential care to Mississippi residents and people who traveled across multiple states to access that essential care before it was too late.”

Chancellery Judge Debbra K. Halford refused the clinic’s request for an injunction on Tuesday, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe vs. Wade last month. Halford, who is a trial judge in southwest Mississippi, was appointed to decide the case after local judges in Hinds County, Mississippi, where the clinic is located, recused themselves.

“The bans we challenged, both the trigger ban and the six-week ban, undoubtedly should have been blocked based on existing protections under the Mississippi Constitution,” Schneller said. “People don’t lose their right to bodily autonomy when they become pregnant.”

Robert McDuff, another lawyer for the clinic, said the legal team is considering next steps, including a possible appeal in the coming days, but the clinic will not be able to continue offering its services while the case progresses before courts.

“Right now, the prospects for reopening the clinic aren’t great,” McDuff said.

Other states rushed to better define their own abortion policies in the weeks after the Supreme Court overturned the 49-year precedent set in deer. As bans take effect in Southern and Midwestern states, local authorities and advocates are taking action to protect abortion access. Here are the latest developments across the country:

  • Maine Governor Janet Mills (D) on Tuesday affirmed her commitment to protecting abortion rights and signed a decree designed to protect patients seeking abortion and healthcare providers who offer abortion services. The order prohibits Maine officials, including police, from cooperating with out-of-state investigations or extradition requests from other states pursuing criminal charges for performing or receiving an abortion.
  • Nevada’s Planned Parenthood Clinics have seen an influx of out-of-state patients seeking abortion services in recent weeks. Kristina Tocce, Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Las Vegas had seen a 200% jump in the number of Texans seeking abortions after the Lone Star State enacted strict restrictions amounting to a near-zero ban. Since 1990, Nevada has formally consecrated the right to abortion in state law. But several state neighbors have banned or severely limited abortions, including Idaho, Arizona and Utah.
  • In Ohio, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish (D) called on the county to cover transportation, lodging and other related costs for county workers seeking out-of-state abortions. Ohio has banned abortion after six weeks, except when the mother’s life is in danger. Cuyahoga County encompasses Cleveland.
  • Whole Women’s Health, which ceased operations at four abortion clinics in Texas after the state’s highest court allowed an abortion ban to go into effect, said it was considering opening a new clinic near the state line in New Mexico . New Mexico doesn’t none of the common restrictions on access to abortion that its close neighbors have adopted.

Mississippi’s trigger law was passed in 2007, when deer yet obtained federal protections for access to abortion. The law prohibits almost all abortions with rare exceptions in cases of rape reported to the police or to save the life of the mother. The state can begin enforcing this law for the first time on Thursday.

Tuesday’s hearing that decided the immediate fate of the state’s last abortion clinic started with a pastor’s prayerdemanded by the judge, for “the presence of [the] Holy Spirit in the audience hall.

The legal team representing the Jackson Women’s Health Organization argued that a right to privacy granted in the Mississippi Constitution protects access to abortion at the state level, independent of federal law. McDuff argued that a 1998 case called Pro-Choice Mississippi vs. Fordice established that the state constitution protects the right to abortion. The Mississippi Supreme Court “made it clear that its decision was based on Mississippi’s right to privacy and the history of abortion law in the state of Mississippi,” McDuff said in an interview.

Mississippi Solicitor General Scott G. Stewart argued the state’s case for the trigger law to go into effect, saying that the 1998 decision relied heavily on deer and Family planning c. Casey, which were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court last month. Halford agreed with the state.

“Since deer and Casey are no longer the law of the land, trust in fordice will certainly not be founded when pursuing this case in the Supreme Court, ”said the judge written in his order refuse an injunction. “Taking into consideration fordicethe light at deer, Casey and Dobbsit is more than doubtful that the Mississippi Supreme Court will continue to uphold fordice.”

Halford acknowledged that the potential harm to patients seeking abortions, including psychological trauma and perceived loss of opportunity, would be “significant and irreparable”. But she ruled the state had a more compelling case for enforcing the law.

Halford said the state has ‘legitimate interests’ to enforce triggering law as soon as possible, including “”respecting and preserving prenatal life at all stages of development”, “protecting maternal health and safety”, “eliminating medical procedures particularly horrible or barbaric”, “preserving the integrity of the medical profession”, “alleviating fetal pain”, and “preventing discrimination based on race, gender or disability”, all as noted the United States Supreme Court in Dobbs.

After the court’s decision to allow the state’s near-total abortion ban on Thursday, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves hailed the ruling as “a great victory for life.”

“Every life has inherent dignity and Mississippi will continue to do all it can to advance the fight for life,” Reeves added in a statement Tuesday.