After a two-year fight, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that Mississippi’s last abortion clinic will remain open.
In its 2-1 ruling, the Court’s majority opinion affirmed abortion rights, stating that “Pre-viability, a woman has the constitutional right to end her pregnancy by abortion,” and that the 2012 law in question “effectively extinguishes that right within Mississippi’s borders.” Indeed, had H.B. 1390 been upheld, women would have been forced to venture to neighboring states in order to obtain an abortion. With this understanding, the Court relied heavily on Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, arguing that a “state cannot lean on its sovereign neighbors to provide protection of its citizens’ federal constitutional rights.”
Conversely, the one dissenting judge demonstrated a limited understanding of abortion access, stating that “merely crossing a state line would not constitute an undue burden, closure of the only abortion provider in Mississippi would not necessarily be unconstitutional.”
For prochoice activists and allies, today’s ruling is a major victory, particularly in the aftermath of SCOTUS’ Hobby Lobby and buffer zone rulings. Under our current legal and judicial systems, accessing reproductive health care without judgment, harassment or obstacles has become increasingly difficult for women.
Today, Mississippi’s women were protected. Closing the Jackson Women’s Health Organization would have put thousands of women’s lives and health in danger. History has shown that closing clinics, limiting resources and ultimately making abortion illegal does not stop women from seeking abortions; these efforts just result in unsafe abortions, the impacts of which are staggering.
Just as importantly, today women were finally trusted — to make their own health care decisions, to decide if and when they want to become mothers, and to be the sovereign rulers over their own bodies and lives.
That’s not to say that the uphill battle to preserve reproductive rights is over. As ThinkProgress notes, “At least six other states are currently pushing legislation specifically intended to target abortion clinics. Just earlier this month, Alabama approved new restrictions that are directly modeled on Mississippi’s.”
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People who are interested in this issue should absolutely read Esquire’s profile of Dr. Willie Parker, who travels in to perform abortions at the clinic. It’s an amazing piece: http://www.esquire.com/features/abortion-ministry-of-dr-willie-parker-0914