Mississippi clinic drops challenge of near-ban on abortion
Published 3:08 pm Tuesday, July 19, 2022
By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS | Associated Press
JACKSON — Mississippi’s last abortion clinic on Tuesday dropped its lawsuit that sought to block the state from enforcing a law that bans most abortions.
The action came a day after clinic owner Diane Derzis told The Associated Press that she had sold Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the facility that was at the center of a U.S. Supreme Court case that overturned Roe v. Wade. Derzis also said she had no intention to reopen the clinic, even if a state court allowed her to do so.
“If the clinic is not in a position to reopen in Mississippi, it no longer has a basis to pursue this case in the courts,” Rob McDuff, a Mississippi Center for Justice attorney who was among those representing the clinic in the lawsuit, said in a statement Tuesday.
Derzis said the furniture and equipment from Jackson Women’s Health Organization have been moved to a new abortion clinic she will open soon in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The Jackson clinic is best known as the Pink House because of its bright paint job.
The Supreme Court on June 24 released its ruling that took away women’s constitutional protection for abortion nationwide. The decision was in a case that challenged a Mississippi law to ban abortions after 15 weeks.
The Pink House stopped offering medication and surgical abortions on July 6, the day before Mississippi enacted a law that bans most abortions. Mississippi was one of several states with a trigger law contingent on the Supreme Court overturning the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
The Mississippi trigger law, passed in 2007, says abortion is legal only if the pregnant woman’s life is in danger or if a pregnancy is caused by a rape reported to law enforcement. It does not have an exception for pregnancies caused by incest.
On July 5, a state court judge rejected a request by the clinic’s attorneys to block the trigger law from taking effect. The clinic appealed her ruling to the state Supreme Court.
Attorneys for the clinic cited a 1998 Mississippi Supreme Court ruling that said the state constitution invokes a right to privacy that “includes an implied right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.”
The state attorney general’s office argued that the 1998 ruling was rooted in U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 1973 and 1992 that established or protected abortion rights but were overturned on June 24. McDuff argued that state justices never said their ruling was made because of the federal Constitution.
Because the clinic is dropping its lawsuit, the Mississippi Supreme Court will not issue a new ruling that might contradict its own 1998 decision.