March 25, 2014 10:19:20 AM
JACKSON -- A federal appeals court in New Orleans will hear arguments April 28 in a lawsuit challenging a 2012 Mississippi law that threatens to close the state's only abortion clinic.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals notified attorneys of the date Monday.
The clinic, Jackson Women's Health Organization, filed a federal lawsuit over the law, which requires each of its physicians to have local hospital admitting privileges.
U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III, in Jackson, allowed the law to take effect but blocked the state from closing the clinic while it seeks to comply with the law.
Clinic owner Diane Derzis told The Associated Press on Monday that the facility has been unable to get admitting privileges for its out-of-state physicians.
"Nothing new," Derzis said in a brief telephone interview.
Admitting privileges can be difficult to obtain because hospitals often won't give them to out-of-state physicians.
The state is asking the 5th Circuit to overturn the district judge's ruling that has allowed the clinic to stay open.
Supporters of the law, including Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, say it's designed to protect women's health, but opponents say it's designed to close the clinic and cut off access to abortion.
Bryant gave his 2014 State of the State speech on Jan. 23, exactly 41 years after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling that established a nationwide right to abortion.
"On this unfortunate anniversary of Roe versus Wade, my goal is to end abortion in Mississippi," Bryant said in the speech.
The clinic's lawsuit against the state originally was set to go to trial March 3 in Jordan's court. Last August, however, the state asked that the case be moved to the 5th Circuit.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, is defending the state in the lawsuit. He said in August that he's trying to gauge whether the state will ultimately be successful in pursuing a legal strategy of arguing that the law was written to protect women's health.
Hood said if the 5th Circuit affirms Jordan's ruling, it may be an indication that Mississippi's approach wouldn't succeed at trial or on appeal.
The New Orleans-based 5th Circuit handles cases from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. In January, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit heard arguments about a 2013 Texas law that puts several restrictions on abortion clinics, including a requirement that providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Nineteen Texas abortion clinics closed after the law was enacted, while 24 remain open in the nation's second-largest state. The appeals panel has not ruled in the Texas case.
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