JACKSON, Miss. -- Mississippi could soon become the only state without an abortion clinic because of a new law taking effect this weekend. Critics say the law would force women to drive hours across the state line to obtain a constitutionally protected procedure, or could even force some to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.
Top officials, including the governor, say limiting the number of abortions is exactly what they have in mind.
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant frequently says he wants Mississippi to be "abortion-free."
"If it closes that clinic, then so be it," Bryant said as in April as he signed the law, which takes effect Sunday.
Abortion rights supporters have sued, asking a judge to temporarily block the law from taking effect. So far, that hasn't happened.
The law requires anyone performing abortions at the state's only clinic to be an OB-GYN with privileges to admit patients to a local hospital. Such privileges can be difficult to obtain, and the clinic contends the mandate is designed to put it out of business. A clinic spokeswoman, Betty Thompson, has said the two physicians who do abortions there are OB-GYNs who travel from other states.
Michelle Movahed of the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights is one of the attorneys representing the Mississippi clinic in its federal lawsuit. She said in an interview Friday that several states – including Mississippi, Kansas and Oklahoma – have tried in the past two or three years to chip away at access to abortion.
"One of the things that has really been surprising about Mississippi is how open the legislators and elected officials have been about their intentions," Movahed said. "They're not even pretending it's about public safety. They're openly saying they're using this law to try to shut down the last abortion provider in the state."
The lawsuit by the clinic, Jackson Women's Health Organization, notes that Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves says on his website that the new abortion law "not only protects the health of the mother but should close the only abortion clinic in Mississippi."
Religious-affiliated hospitals might not grant admitting privileges to those who perform elective abortions, while other hospitals might not grant them to out-of-state physicians who travel to Jackson to work at the clinic. As of Friday, the final business day before the new law kicks in Sunday, physicians working at the clinic had applied for the admitting privileges but hadn't received them.
The clinic says in the lawsuit that the admitting privileges are not medically necessary. It says complications from abortion are rare, and it notes that under previous state law, it already had an agreement with a Jackson physician who didn't do abortions but has admitting privileges and would help any clinic patient, if needed. Bryant and legislators who pushed the new law said they believe it will be safer for a woman who develops complications if the same doctor who does an abortion at a clinic can accompany her to a hospital rather than handing her case over to another physician.
State attorneys defending the law said in court documents that "the immediate concern that the clinic may be closed on July 1 is ill-founded." They cited administrative procedures the state Health Department uses in activating new laws.
Health Department inspectors intend to examine the clinic Monday to see if it is complying with the new law, a department spokeswoman said. If the clinic is not in compliance – which the clinic itself acknowledges will likely be the case – it would have 10 days to file a plan to correct its shortcomings. Then, an administrative hearing would be held at least 30 days later, and there could be an unspecified time allowed for an appeal.
The Jackson clinic sits a few miles north of the state Capitol, in a trendy neighborhood with upscale restaurants and vintage clothing stores. The nondescript building, with fading mauve paint, sits on a small hill on one of Jackson's busiest streets. A black vinyl tarp is attached to the fence leading from a parking lot to the patients' entrance, blocking most of the view from a public sidewalk where people gather several times a week to pray and protest.
Outside the clinic one day last week, at least a dozen people from a local Nazarene church sang hymns, read aloud from the Bible and prayed for an end to abortion. Among them was 51-year-old Patricia Frazier, who lives in the Jackson suburb of Clinton. Looking through an opening in the black tarp, Frazier spoke to a man who was standing by the clinic entrance. He had brought a woman to there for the counseling that state law requires at least 24 hours before an abortion can be done.
"You need me to help you with your friend?" Frazier asked over the fence.
The man, 30-year-old Girard Shirley of Jackson, smiled and slowly shook his head.
"Nah," Shirley said. "To be honest with you, I don't even know if the baby's mine, anyway."
Frazier showed Shirley a brown rubber model of a fetus at about 12 weeks' development – about the length of a grown woman's index finger. Shirley said he'd never given much thought to how that might look.
"Let her know we're here to help her – her and her baby," Frazier said.
Shirley listened and said, "Yeah, I'll talk to her."
"This is all about money. They want your money," Frazier said, nodding toward the clinic. "This help is free."
In an interview moments later, away from the people who were praying, Shirley said he had driven his friend to the clinic because she needed help and he needed gasoline money. Would he be willing to drive her out of state for an abortion if there were no clinic in Mississippi?
"I probably would take her," he said. He paused, then added: "No, I wouldn't. I got bad tires and stuff."
Two days later, Shirley said the woman he had driven to the clinic had stuck with her decision to have an abortion.
The state Health Department website shows 2,297 abortions, listed as "induced terminations," were performed in Mississippi in 2010, the most recent year for which statistics were available. The vast majority of those – 2,251 – were performed on Mississippi residents. The site does not specify how many were done at the clinic and how many in other offices or hospitals.
Mississippi physicians who perform fewer than 10 abortions a month can avoid having their offices regulated as an abortion clinic, and thus avoid restrictions in the new law. The Health Department said it doesn't have a record of how many physicians perform fewer than 10 abortions a month. Clinic operators say almost all the abortions in the state are done in their building.
The clinic says if it closes, most women would have to go out of state to terminate a pregnancy – something that could create financial problems for people in one of the poorest states in the nation. From Jackson, it's about a 200-mile drive to clinics in New Orleans; Mobile, Ala.; or Memphis, Tenn.
Birth Control Causes Prostate Cancer
Earlier this year, a New Hampshire lawmaker came up with a new reason the government should not require health insurance companies to provide contraception. "As a man, would it interest you to know that Dr. Brownstein just published an article that links the pill to prostate cancer?" state Rep. Jeanine Notter (R) asked a male representative at the hearing, the <a href="http://merrimack.patch.com/articles/merrimack-rep-claims-the-pill-has-been-linked-to-prostate-cancer" target="_hplink">Merrimack Patch reports</a>. "In the children that are born from these women?" he asked. Notter could not clearly explain the study or how the pill results in prostate cancer. The study described in <a href="http://www.newsmaxhealth.com/dr_brownstein/Prostate_Cancer_The_Pill/2012/02/06/432113.html" target="_hplink">the newsletter of Dr. David Brownstein, a physician and holistic practitioner in Michigan,</a> suggests men may ingest estrogen through environmental contamination, not in utero from mothers taking birth control. An author of the study <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2011/11/15/study-link-between-birth-control-pills-and-prostate-cancer/" target="_hplink">told ABC News</a>, "This is just a hypothesis-generating idea. Women should not be throwing away the pill because of this."
Abortion Causes Breast Cancer
The New Hampshire House in 2012 <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/14/abortion-breast-cancer-new-hampshire-_n_1345771.html" target="_hplink">passed a bill </a>that would require doctors to tell women seeking abortions that the procedure can cause breast cancer. Here is an excerpt from the bill, sponsored by Notter: <blockquote>Materials that inform the pregnant woman that there is a direct link between abortion and breast cancer. It is scientifically undisputed that full-term pregnancy reduces a woman's lifetime risk of breast cancer. It is also undisputed that the earlier a woman has a first full-term pregnancy, the lower her risk of breast cancer becomes, because following a full-term pregnancy the breast tissue exposed to estrogen through the menstrual cycle is more mature and cancer resistant. In fact, for each year that a woman's first full-term pregnancy is delayed, her risk of breast cancer rises 3.5 percent. The theory that there is a direct link between abortion and breast cancer builds upon this undisputed foundation. During the first and second trimesters of pregnancy the breasts develop merely by duplicating immature tissues. Once a woman passes the thirty-second week of pregnancy (third trimester), the immature cells develop into mature cancer resistant cells. When an abortion ends a normal pregnancy, the woman is left with more immature breast tissue than she had before she was pregnant. </blockquote> There is <a href="http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/BreastCancer/MoreInformation/is-abortion-linked-to-breast-cancer" target="_hplink">no link between abortions and breast cancer</a>, according to the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society and other major health organizations. Similar provisions requiring doctors to make the abortion-breast cancer connection remain on the books in other state laws. Alaska, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas all inaccurately assert a risk in written counseling materials, according to the <a href="http://www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/spibs/spib_MWPA.pdf" target="_hplink">Guttmacher Institute</a>, a New York-based reproductive health research organization.
Birth Control Is A Sex Pill
Rush Limbaugh showed he has no understanding of how birth control pills work when he attacked Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student barred from testifying as a Democratic witness at a congressional hearing about the Obama administration's contraception policy. Limbaugh <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/29/rush-limbaugh-sandra-fluke-slut_n_1311640.html" target="_hplink">called Fluke a "slut"</a> for needing lots of birth control to manage her sex life. "She wants to be paid to have sex," Limbaugh said. "She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex." Rick Santorum has also said that contraception encourages a bad kind of sex. Last year, in an interview with the Evangelical blog Caffeinated Thoughts, <a href="http://swampland.time.com/2012/02/14/rick-santorum-wants-to-fight-the-dangers-of-contraception/" target="_hplink">Santorum warned of the "dangers of contraception:"</a> <blockquote>"It's not OK because it's a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They're supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also [inaudible], but also procreative. That's the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act."</blockquote> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-b-keegan/gop-obama-birth-control_b_1281808.html" target="_hplink">Most women who have had sex have used contraception</a>. Birth control pills -- which are taken daily, regardless of how frequently a woman has sex -- may also be taken to manage endometriosis, ovarian cysts, acne or other health problems. A <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/14/arizona-birth-control-bill-contraception-medical-reasons_n_1344557.html" target="_hplink">bill in Arizona proposed penalizing women who use the pill for non-medical reasons</a>.
Abortion Industry Is 'Selling Abortions'
A Republican state legislator in Arizona <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/20/abortion-bill-arizona-terri-proud-witness-email_n_1368386.html" target="_hplink">wrote in an email to a constituent</a> earlier this year that she wanted to force women seeking abortions to watch the procedure first. "Personally I'd like to make a law that mandates a woman watch an abortion being performed prior to having a 'surgical procedure,'" state Rep. Terri Proud (R) wrote. The constituent responded by email that she was "speechless" and after <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/23/abortion-bill-abortion-constituent-email-watching-abortion_n_1376389.html?ref=politics" target="_hplink">a baffling exchange with Proud</a>, released the emails to the media. Facing national outrage, Proud<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/21/terri-proud-arizona-legislator-abortion_n_1371213.html" target="_hplink"> issued a statement</a>: <blockquote>For too long, Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry have placed selling abortions above the health and safety of women. My message to a constituent last week emphasized my concerns with how abortion providers have not been honest with women about the realities of abortion, and the short and long-term risks of this dangerous surgical procedure.</blockquote> The notion that Planned Parenthood <a href="http://www.whyprolife.com/the-abortion-industry-they-believe-in-getting-children-young/" target="_hplink">baits women into unwanted pregnancies by providing ineffective contraception</a> then profits off the abortions is nothing new, but it's as outrageous as it sounds. Abortions constitute <a href="http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/who-we-are/planned-parenthood-glance-5552.htm" target="_hplink">3 percent</a> of Planned Parenthood's services, and the organization estimates it <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/what-planned-parenthood-actually-does/2011/04/06/AFhBPa2C_blog.html" target="_hplink">prevents more than 220,000 abortions each year</a> by providing contraception. Because Planned Parenthood is <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/08/title-x-headline_n_846852.html" target="_hplink">not allowed to use federal funds for abortions</a>, defunding the program may limit contraception services and result in more abortions.
Women Can't Get Pregnant From Rape
Just before Idaho's Senate withdrew a mandatory ultrasound bill in March, a Republican bill sponsor <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/20/chuck-winder-rape-abortions_n_1366994.html" target="_hplink">made some startling comments about abortion and rape</a>. "Rape and incest was used as a reason to oppose this," said state Sen. Chuck Winder (R). "I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape. I assume that's part of the counseling that goes on." It wasn't the first time a lawmaker has suggested that women seeking abortions may lie about rape. Some anti-abortion activists actually believe that rape cannot result in pregnancy. <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/annanorth/the-6-craziest-things-people-have-said-about-pregn" target="_hplink">Buzzfeed dug up a series of bizarre statements </a>Republicans have made about pregnancy, rape, juices not flowing and more. Here's one: <blockquote>The odds that a woman who is raped will get pregnant are "one in millions and millions and millions," said state Rep. Stephen Freind, R-Delaware County, the Legislature's leading abortion foe.<br> The reason, Freind said, is that the traumatic experience of rape causes a woman to "secrete a certain secretion" that tends to kill sperm.<br> Two Philadelphia doctors specializing in human reproduction characterized Freind's contention as scientifically baseless.</blockquote> <a href="http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/ask-dr-cullins/cullins-preg-5291.htm" target="_hplink">According to Planned Parenthood</a>, about 5 percent of rapes result in pregnancy, and providing all rape victims with emergency contraception could prevent more than 22,000 unwanted pregnancies a year. <em><strong>Correction:</strong> A previous version of this text misstated the status of Idaho's mandatory ultrasound bill legislation. Lawmakers ultimately decided to table the measure.</em>
Prenatal Testing Leads To Abortion
Former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum made prenatal testing a campaign issue in February when <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/22/rick-santorum-prenatal-testing_n_1293153.html#s584044&title=On_Contraception" target="_hplink">he declared</a> the tests are designed to "cull the ranks of the disabled in our society" by encouraging abortions. "Amniocentesis does, in fact, result more often than not in this country in abortions," <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/election-2012/post/rick-santorum-prenatal-testing-encourages-abortions/2012/02/19/gIQAvmZeNR_blog.html" target="_hplink">Santorum, who has a severely disabled daughter, said on "Face the Nation."</a> "That is a fact." In fact, more than 90 percent of amniocenteses tests result in normal diagnoses, and half of fetuses diagnosed with severe abnormalities -- about 5 percent of those tested -- are aborted, <a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/feb/27/rick-santorum/rick-santorum-says-amniocentesis-does-fact-result-/" target="_hplink">according to PolitiFact</a>. A campaign spokeswoman for Obama <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/22/rick-santorum-prenatal-testing_n_1293153.html#s584044&title=On_Contraception" target="_hplink">condemned Santorum's comments</a> as "misinformed and dangerous" and pointed out that the tests help women have safer deliveries and healthier babies.
HPV Vaccine Causes Retardation
Back when Rick Perry was campaigning for president, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/13/rick-perry-hpv-vaccine_n_961159.html" target="_hplink">his rivals attacked him</a> for signing an executive order mandating the human papillomavirus vaccine for young girls, and misinformation quickly spread. Michele Bachmann <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/19/michele-bachmann-retardation-claim_n_970919.html" target="_hplink">insinuated that the vaccine causes mental retardation</a>, while Santorum spoke out against "having little girls inoculated at the force and compulsion of the government." The vaccine is safe and effective in preventing cervical cancer caused by certain strains of HPV, and Perry's 2007 executive order, which was overturned by the state legislature, would have allowed parents to opt out of having their daughters vaccinated. Dr. Renata Arrington-Sanders, a professor at Johns Hopkins University medical school, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/13/rick-perry-hpv-vaccine_n_961159.html" target="_hplink">told HuffPost's Laura Bassett</a>: <blockquote>"The HPV vaccine has been shown to be safe and well-tolerated based on multiple medical reports that have been submitted through government databases. It's unfortunate that this particular vaccine is surrounded by a lot of controversy just because it's been labeled as an STD-prevention vaccine. We have similar vaccines, such as one for hepatitis B, that are also used in a mandated approach and have shown very successful rates with prevention."</blockquote>
Plan B Causes Abortions
The debate over the Obama administration's contraception policy has yielded some puzzling claims about birth control and Plan B. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) <a href="http://www.lifenews.com/2012/02/08/boehner-pledges-congress-will-overturn-new-obama-mandate/" target="_hplink">addressed the House</a> in February, urging his colleagues to reverse Obama's mandate for health insurance coverage of "abortion-inducing drugs:" <blockquote>In recent days, Americans of every faith and political persuasion have mobilized in objection to a rule put forward by the Obama administration that constitutes an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country. This rule would require faith-based employers -- including Catholic charities, schools, universities, and hospitals -- to provide services they believe are immoral. Those services include sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and devices, and contraception.</blockquote> Michele Bachmann called Plan B an abortion pill when she incorrectly criticized Obama for making the drug available over-the-counter -- an FDA recommendation the administration and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/08/obama-sebelius-morning-after-pill_n_1137014.html" target="_hplink">rejected last year</a>. "The president can put abortion pills for girls 8 years of age, 11 years of age, on the bubblegum aisle," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/28/gop-candidates-personhood_n_1172082.html" target="_hplink">Bachmann said</a> at a "pro-life" town hall in December. Contraceptives, emergency or not, prevent pregnancy. They don't cause abortions. Plan B works in the same way and with the same ingredients as birth control pills, just at a higher dosage, and<a href="http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/august/31.44.html?start=2" target="_hplink"> does nothing to stop the development of a fetus</a>.
Your Fetus Is Just Fine
The Arizona Senate<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/09/wrongful-birth-bill-arizona-senate-abortion-bill_n_1335117.html" target="_hplink"> passed a bill</a> in March to protect doctors from "wrongful birth" lawsuits -- effectively allowing them to withhold information that may lead a patient to get an abortion. HuffPost's John Celock <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/06/kansas-anti-abortion-bill_n_1258185.html" target="_hplink">reports</a>: <blockquote>Sen. Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix) told the Claims Journal that she sponsored the law because she did not want claimants to blame a doctor for a baby born with disabilities. Under the provisions of her bill, a doctor could not be sued for medical malpractice if the doctor withholds information from a mother about a child's potential health issues that could influence her decision to have an abortion. In addition, a lawsuit could not be filed on the child's behalf regarding a disability.</blockquote> Kansas lawmakers <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/06/kansas-anti-abortion-bill_n_1258185.html" target="_hplink">have considered similar legislation</a>.