JACKSON, Miss. — Health officials have inspected Mississippi's lone abortion clinic, the first step in a process that could lead to its closure if a new state law survives a legal challenge.
Following Monday's inspection, the Mississippi Department of Health has 10 working days to issue findings. The Jackson Women's Health Organization continues to perform abortions in the meantime.
Clinic owner Diane Derzis said she expected to be cited for not complying with the law's requirement that physicians have privileges to admit patients to an area hospital.
"You know that I'm not in compliance," Derzis told The Associated Press Tuesday in a phone interview. "Certainly this is not a secret."
Derzis said she had expected the inspection to occur Monday.
"They will write us up for that and we will respond," she said. "The dance will continue."
Health department spokeswoman Liz Sharlot said the agency will send its findings to Derzis and called the examination a "standard inspection" of the type the department would conduct any time a new law was enacted, carried out by one or two employees.
The law also requires anyone who performs abortions to be an OB-GYN. The clinic said its physicians meet that requirement. The obstacle is that the two out-of-state OB-GYNS don't have admitting privileges and are having trouble getting them from reluctant local hospitals.
The clinic sued to stop the law from taking effect. On July 13, U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III ruled that the state was allowed to enforce the law while physicians continued to seek needed hospital admitting privileges. Jordan, though, said the state couldn't issue any criminal or civil penalties while the clinic tried to comply.
Admitting privileges can be difficult to obtain, either because doctors live out of state or because religious-affiliated hospitals don't grant them to doctors who do abortions. For example, Derzis has said that Jackson's St. Dominic Hospital, a Catholic facility, told physicians not to bother to apply. The clinic has said it could be forced out of business with the admitting privileges requirement, making it nearly impossible to get an abortion in Mississippi.
The clinic argues that the law will effectively ban abortion in the state and endanger women's health by limiting access to the procedure. It argued that the law is unconstitutional and would close the clinic "by imposing medically unjustified requirements on physicians who perform abortions." Lawyers also cite statements from Mississippi officials who said the law was intended to close the clinic.
A denial of admitting privileges could bolster the clinic's arguments that the law is unconstitutional, a lawyer for the state has suggested. But a final ruling could come only after a trial, and the loser could appeal.
The state argues that the law is intended to enhance the safety of patients. The state's lawyers have argued that Jordan should disregard statements about trying to close the clinic, a claim he greeted with skepticism in court.
More administrative steps would have to follow before the clinic could be shut. Sharlot said the clinic would have 10 calendar days to respond to any findings. The state's lawyers have said that a facility not complying with a law would get at least 30 days before an administrative hearing. If a license is revoked at a hearing, the clinic would get 30 days to appeal that decision. Health department officials have said it could take as long as 10 months to close the clinic if it failed to comply.
99 Problems (JAY-Z)
Eric Fehrnstrom, senior campaign adviser for Mitt Romney, <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2012/06/03/494238/fehrnstrom-shiny-objects-women/" target="_hplink">said on Sunday</a> that issues pertaining to women's reproductive rights, such as abortion and birth control, were "shiny objects" meant to distract voters from the real issues. "Mitt Romney is pro-life," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "He'll govern as a pro-life president, but you're going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people's attention from the Obama performance on the economy. This is not a social issue election."
The Senate will vote Thursday on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would expand and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and make it illegal for employers to punish women for bringing up pay disparity issues. Dana Perino, a Fox News contributor and former press secretary for President George W. Bush, <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/04/30/perino-equal-pay-issue-is-a-distraction-for-just-48-hours/" target="_hplink">called the equal pay issue</a> "a distraction" from the country's real financial problems last week. "Well, it's just yet another distraction of dealing with the major financial issues that the country should be dealing with," Perino said. "This is not a job creator."
Just My Imagination (The Temptations)
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose home state's legislature recently defunded Planned Parenthood and voted to pass a bill that would allow employers to deny women birth control coverage, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/26/john-mccain-war-on-women_n_1455591.html" target="_hplink">delivered a floor speech</a> in which he insisted that the war on women is something imaginary for Democrats to "sputter about." "My friends, this supposed 'War on Women' or the use of similarly outlandish rhetoric by partisan operatives has two purposes, and both are purely political in their purpose and effect: The first is to distract citizens from real issues that really matter and the second is to give talking heads something to sputter about when they appear on cable television," he said.
Butterfly Fly Away (Miley & Billy Ray Cyrus)
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tried to trivialize concerns about the legislative "war on women" by comparing it to a "war on caterpillars." "If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we'd have problems with caterpillars," Priebus <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-05/priebus-says-gender-battle-as-fictonal-as-caterpillar-war.html" target="_hplink">said in an April interview</a> on Bloomberg Television. "It's a fiction."
Distraction (Angels And Airwaves)
Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Steelman (R) took heat from her opponents in May when she contended that Democratic lawmakers' focus on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act was "a distraction" from the issues they should be dealing with instead. "I think it's unfortunate that the Democrats have made a political football out of this thing, which I think is what they keep doing to distract from real problems that are facing our nation," she said in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio.
We Don't Care (Kanye West)
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) defended the Republican Party in April for going after insurance coverage for contraception by arguing that women don't actually care about contraception. "Women don't care about contraception," she said on ABC's The View. "They care about jobs and the economy and raising their families and all those other things."