Groups question abortion clinic's statistics

August 31, 2013 5:45:04 PM



JACKSON -- A complaint filed against Mississippi's only abortion clinic alleges the facility has not been in compliance with state law. 


The Clarion-Ledger reports the complaint was filed Thursday with the Mississippi Department of Health. It questions statistics reported to the agency by Jackson Women's Health Organization and asks officials to conduct an investigation. 


The letter is signed by leaders of Pro-Life Mississippi, Physicians for Life Mississippi, Mississippi Right To Life and Pro Life Action Network. The groups say they are concerned that the clinic is "in a continuing state of non-compliance with the Abortion Reporting Law enacted in 2004, Miss. Code Ann. 41-41-78." 


Going off the 2011 abortion statistics from the state Health Department, the anti-abortion groups in their complaint highlighted "discrepancies that need clarification." 


Among them, the groups challenge the reporting of 529 abortions where the age of gestation was "unknown." The groups asked the state to do a complete audit on clinic files to recalculate and correct the reporting. 


Messages left Saturday with the clinic and for one of its lawyers were not immediately returned. 


But Laurie Bertram Roberts, president of the National Organization for Women, challenged the groups' complaint. 


"Where is the evidence that JWHO did not report these statistics to the Health Department?" Roberts asked. "How the Health Department processes that information is not up to JWHO. It's an issue Pro-Life Mississippi needs to take up with the Health Department." 


Pro-Life MS spokeswoman Tanya Britton said she believes the facility has been noncompliant over the years in various ways. "We want answers from the state Board of Health and protect the lives of women in our state," she said. 


Liz Sharlot, communications director for the Health Department, said officials check out complaints with any state-licensed facilities. 


"We received the complaint Thursday and, yes, we will conduct an investigation as soon as possible," she said. "Our role is to inspect facilities to ensure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing." 


The complaint is the latest development in the saga between the clinic and anti-abortion groups and elected officials who want the clinic shut down. 


A 2012 state law requires each OB-GYN who does abortions at the clinic to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, and so far the clinic has been unable to obtain the privileges. 


The law was to take effect July 1, 2012, but U.S. District Judge Dan Jordan first blocked the state from closing the clinic while the clinic tried to get admitting privileges. Then in April, he ruled the state couldn't close the clinic while the clinic has a federal lawsuit pending.