The sole abortion clinic in Mississippi will remain open after a federal appeals panel on Tuesday blocked a state law that would have required its doctors to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in a 2-to-1 vote that the law would have effectively ended abortion in the state, as the clinic's doctors have been unable to receive admitting privileges from local hospitals. The panel said Mississippi would be illegally shifting its constitutional obligations to neighboring states, the New York Times reports.
“A state cannot lean on its sovereign neighbors to provide protection of its citizens’ federal constitutional rights,” Judge E. Grady Jolly wrote.
Mississippi lawmakers who supported the law said it only sought to address safety issues and "the regulation of abortion clinics," said State Rep. Sam C. Mims. Opponents of the law said it was intended to end abortion in the state.
The U.S. Appeals Court ruling did not consider whether the requirement that doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals was justified on safety grounds, and only ruled that Mississippi could not close its sole abortion clinic.
Federal courts in Alabama, Kansas and Wisconsin have blocked similar laws, reports the Times, while they have taken effect in Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
A Texas law that requires doctors to obtain admitting privileges and has caused one-third of the state's abortion clinics to close was upheld in March, forcing women in some parts of the state to drive more than 100 miles to obtain an abortion.
Judge Emilio M. Garza of the appeal court said in a dissenting opinion that “no state is obligated to provide or guarantee the provision of abortion services within its borders.”