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Court Rejects Law Threatening Mississippi's Last Abortion Clinic

A federal appeals court has rejected a Mississippi law that would have forced the state's only abortion clinic to close.

In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday turned aside arguments that women seeking to have an abortion could have the procedure done in a neighboring state.

Closing the clinic in Jackson would place an "undue burden" on women, the court found.

"Pre-viability, a woman has the constitutional right to end her pregnancy by abortion," Judge E. Grady Jolly wrote for the majority. "Mississippi may not shift its obligation to respect the established constitutional rights of its citizens to another state."

The Mississippi law, enacted in 2012, requires abortion providers to have on staff doctors with admitting privileges at neighboring hospitals. Physicians at the Jackson clinic applied for privileges at area hospitals, but were unable to obtain them.

Other states have passed similar requirements, which has led to the closure of numerous clinics in states such as Texas and Ohio.

In March, a 5th Circuit panel upheld the Texas law, finding that it did not endanger women's health. The number of abortion clinics operating in Texas has dropped by half over the past year.

With today's ruling, the judges signaled that while closing many clinics is OK, a law that forces the closure of a state's very last clinic is not.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alan Greenblatt has been covering politics and government in Washington and around the country for 20 years. He came to NPR as a digital reporter in 2010, writing about a wide range of topics, including elections, housing economics, natural disasters and same-sex marriage.
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