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Judge blocks closure of Miss. abortion clinic

5:07 AM, Apr 16, 2013   |    comments
Abortion rights supporters stand outside the Jackson Women's Health Organization, Mississippi's only commercial abortion clinic in Jackson, Miss., on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. On Monday, April 15, 2013, a judge issued an injunction allowing the clinic to remain open while it has a federal lawsuit pending to challenge Mississippi law. (Photo: Rogelio V. Solis, AP)
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JACKSON, Miss. (The Clarion-Ledger) -- A federal judge Monday issued a preliminary injunction barring the closure of Mississippi's only abortion clinic.

U.S. District Judge Dan Jordan's ruling comes three days before an administrative hearing by the state Department of Health on the Jackson Women's Health Organization's inability to meet the provisions of a state law passed last year requiring the clinic's physicians to have hospital admitting privileges.

In his ruling, Jordan notes the clinic has sought the injunction because it has "exhausted all available avenues to comply" with the law and wanted it before Thursday's administrative hearing. Noting Mississippi has indicated it will revoke the clinic's license after the hearing, Jordan writes, "The Court concludes the Plaintiffs are entitled to preliminary injunctive relief."

His ruling prevents Mississippi from closing the clinic while it has a federal lawsuit pending to challenge the 2012 law.

"The State has plainly informed the Clinic that it will be closed pursuant to a statute that appears to fail the undue-burden test," Jordan says in his ruling. "Considering this, and the other articulated and unrebutted harms, the Court concludes that the irreparable injuries alleged are sufficiently imminent to justify preliminary injunctive relief at this time."

Jordan had issued a temporary restraining order July 1, 2012, but allowed the act to go into effect. He required the clinic to seek admitting privileges and enjoined the state from exacting civil or criminal penalties for continuing to operate while those privileges were sought.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, praised the judge's decision.

"While the women of Mississippi may be able to breathe a collective sigh of relief today, this fight is far from over," Northup said in a news release Monday. "We will continue our work to see this underhanded attempt to ban abortions in Mississippi struck down as a violation of women's constitutional reproductive rights."

Clinic owner Diane Dervis told The Associated Press on Monday that the clinic has been unable to get the privileges at any of the Jackson-area hospitals where it applied.

Last week, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed a similar requirement into law for physicians who work at abortion clinics in his state.

In January, Jackson Women's Health Organization received a letter from the state Department of Health that it was out of compliance with state law and that its license would be revoked. The clinic was allowed to stay open as it awaited this week's hearing.

Contributing: Emily Le Coz, The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger and The Associated Press

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