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Mississippi Abortion Bill May Force State's Only Clinic To Close

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By Robbie Ward

STARKVILLE, Miss., April 4 (Reuters) - The Mississippi state Senate passed a bill on Wednesday to impose new regulations on facilities providing abortions that supporters of the state's only abortion clinic said could force it to close.

The measure, which previously passed in the state House of Representatives, would requires physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and be board certified or eligible in obstetrics and gynecology.

Mississippi's only abortion provider, Jackson Women's Health Organization, said before the vote that it could face closure if the bill becomes law. The clinic's owner, Diane Derzis, has said she would challenge the law in court if it is signed by Republican Governor Phil Bryant.

"This legislation is an important step in strengthening abortion regulations and protecting the health and safety of women," Bryant said in a statement. "As governor, I will continue to work to make Mississippi abortion-free."

Currently, only one of the three physicians who provide abortions at the Mississippi clinic has admitting privileges at a local hospital, Derzis said previously. Admitting privileges are an arrangement with a hospital allowing the doctor to refer patients to the facility in case further treatment is needed.

Many Mississippi hospitals have refused to grant admitting privileges to physicians who provide abortions.

All of the doctors who provide abortions at the Jackson clinic are board certified in obstetrics and gynecology, Derzis said previously.

Mississippi became the focus of national attention in 2011 because of a statewide referendum on a "personhood" constitutional amendment that would have defined a fertilized egg as a person. The referendum failed even though most elected officials in the state supported it. (Editing by Greg McCune and Lisa Shumaker)

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