February 26, 2014 10:09:49 AM
JACKSON -- A federal appeals court is expected to hear oral arguments in late April or early May in a lawsuit challenging a 2012 law that threatens to close Mississippi's only abortion clinic.
Robert McDuff, one of the attorneys representing the clinic, said Tuesday that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals informed him arguments will be heard the week of April 28.
Jackson Women's Health Organization filed a federal lawsuit over the law, which requires each of its OB-GYN physicians to have privileges to admit patients to a local hospital.
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.
The clinic has been unable to get admitting privileges for its out-of-state physicians, including one who flies in from Chicago.
"Nope. No change," clinic owner Diane Derzis told The Associated Press in a brief telephone interview Tuesday.
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 allowed the clinic to continue operating.
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.
"My goal is to end abortion in Mississippi," Bryant said in January during his State of the State address.
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 over a 2013 Texas law that puts several restrictions on abortion clinics, including a requirement that providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Several Texas abortion clinics closed after the law was enacted, but several remain open. The appeals panel has not ruled in the Texas case.