Federal judge blocks late-term abortion ban law

BY LYDIA HAILMAN

Daily Journal

A federal judge's decision Friday will prevent Mississippi from enforcing a new law that bars late-term abortions at abortion clinics. The law requires patients to go to hospitals or outpatient surgical facilities.

“I'm hopeful that we can prevail in court,” said Sen. Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, a supporter of the new law and chairman of that chamber's Public Health and Welfare Committee. “I think it's important that the state of Mississippi do everything it can to protect unborn children.”

Friday, U.S. District Judge Tom S. Lee issued a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed by Jackson Women's Health Organization, an abortion clinic suing the state and asking that the new law be declared unconstitutional.

During the 2004 regular session, the Legislature passed the law banning abortions at abortion clinics after the first trimester of pregnancy. The old law had allowed abortions performed up to 16 weeks' gestation.

Lee dismissed the state argument that ambulatory surgical facilities can perform abortions if they wish.

Centers don't do procedure

He said while the state has not prohibited existing ambulatory surgical facilities from performing abortions, it knew when the law was passed that none did.

“It is nonetheless clear that irrespective of the state's purpose, the effect … is to make abortions following the first timester unavailable to women in this state,” Lee said.

Nunnelee said evidence has shown abortions can be dangerous to the mother after 13 weeks' gestation. He said the law aimed at bringing the procedures into hospital outpatient surgery facilities that have a higher standard of care.

Barb Baumann is a facilitator with Rachel's Vineyard Ministries in Tupelo, which provides support for women after abortions and plans retreats throughout the year. Baumann says she would like to see abortions stopped as soon as possible.

“Any abortion is going to be detrimental to a child, mother, father, grandparent or sibling. The repercussions might not be right away, but maybe later in life,” Baumann said.

Lee said the prelminary injunction will remain in place until he can rule on the merits of JWHO's lawsuit.