Jackson Women’s Health Organization is Mississippi’s only abortion clinic. And now, thanks to a new bill that would require clinic doctors to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, it may be Mississippi’s last.
The bill is titled HB 1390 and is the latest effort by a state legislature to stop a woman’s access to a legal and safe abortion. The bill would require all physicians performing in abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. It sounds simple enough, and proponents of the bill claim that they are trying to protect women’s health by guaranteeing them direct access to a hospital if a complication occurs following their abortion.
Here’s where it gets dicey. While all of the physicians at Jackson Women’s Health Organization are certified OB-GYNS (another requirement of the bill), only one of its doctors has admitting privileges to a nearby hospital. This is because admitting privileges are usually only granted to in-state doctors who will provide the hospital with a specific number of patients. The clinic’s owner, Diane Derzis, told the Associated Press that most of their doctors have difficultly being granted such privileges because “they are routinely threatened and stalked for their work” forcing them to live out-of-state.
It should also be noted that hospitals have the right to refuse admitting privileges, and two of Jackson’s hospitals have Christian affiliations, making it even more difficult for Derzis’s clinic to comply with the law by the July 1 deadline, according to the Huffington Post. What the clinic does do – in place of these admitting privileges – is a patient-transfer agreement with a local hospital, ensuring that, in the rare case of complications, women will have a direct transfer to a hospital nearby.
The fact that this is Mississippi’s only abortion clinic and that this is the only organization that will be impacted by this bill makes it obvious that the Mississippi legislature is targeting the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This type of bill is often referred to as a TRAP law, which is the acronym for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. TRAP laws are intended to make it difficult, if not impossible, for clinics to operate, and they have become increasingly common across the country – Florida included.
TRAP bills are indirect ways to stop women from having access to safe and legal abortions, and though the guise of HB 1390 is patient safety, proponents of the bill are not shying away from their anti-choice stances. During the House floor debate last month, the bill’s author, Rep. Sam Mims, said, “If this bill causes less abortions to happen, I believe it’s a positive result,” according to Mother Jones. Miss. Gov. Phil Bryant agreed, saying, “As governor, I will continue to work to make Mississippi abortion-free.”
Of course, forcing Mississippi’s only abortion clinic to close down won’t mean the end of abortions in Mississippi. It will only make the procedures less accessible and less safe. Sure, wealthy women with access to private or out-of-state abortions will manage, but the many low-income women of Mississippi won’t have an option and could instead turn to more dangerous alternatives.
It doesn’t seem like many Mississippi legislatures understand what a legal abortion even is. When asked if women might turn to dangerous, back-alley abortions if the clinic closes, Sen. Dean Kirby (R-Miss.), who voted for the bill, responded confusingly with: “That’s what we’re trying to stop here, the coat-hanger abortions. The purpose of this bill is to stop back-room abortions,” according to the Post.
Obviously Kirby and his colleagues lack complete knowledge about this subject – which is another reason why they shouldn’t be ruling over a woman’s body in the first place. This law isn’t about protecting women and is instead jeopardizing them. We must continue to be vigilant in our efforts to protect a woman’s legal right to an abortion because every woman should have the right to choose without government interference.