The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled in favor of Mississippi's last standing abortion clinic, ruling that politicians cannot pass abortion restrictions that would shut the clinic down.
The ruling strikes down a state law passed in 2012 that would have required all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. The clinic's two main doctors providing abortions sought admitting privileges at seven different hospitals and were denied at all of them for various political and logistical reasons.
The Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that states may not impose an undue burden on a woman's right to access abortion up until the fetus would be viable outside the womb, or around 22 to 24 weeks into the pregnancy. Attorneys for Mississippi's Department of Health had argued that when the state's last clinic shut down, women could still access abortion by driving to a neighboring state. But the court ruled on Tuesday that a state cannot "shift its obligation to respect the established constitutional rights of its citizens to another state."
"Such a proposal would not only place an undue burden on the exercise of the constitutional right, but would also disregard a state’s obligation under the principle of federalism -- applicable to all fifty states -- to accept the burden of the non-delegable duty of protecting the established federal constitutional rights of its own citizens," the court wrote.
Five states -- Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and North Dakota -- currently have laws requiring admitting privileges that have shut down or are threatening to shut down clinics, and four states have had the law blocked by courts. New admitting privileges requirements will go into effect in Louisiana and Oklahoma later this year. The American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists both oppose the requirement and have argued that it is medically unnecessary.
The reproductive rights group that challenged Mississippi's law on behalf of the Jackson Women's Health Organization celebrated its win on Tuesday.
“Today’s ruling ensures women who have decided to end a pregnancy will continue to have access to safe, legal care for now in their home state," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.