Mississippi adopts new abortion restrictions


ATLANTA — Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill Monday imposing new restrictions on the state’s sole abortion clinic that could force it to close its doors.

The law is one of several recent state measures championed by antiabortion activists and passed largely by Republican allies. Last week, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a law that banned most abortions after 20 weeks. In March, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed a bill requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion.

The Mississippi law requires all physicians who work at in-state abortion clinics to be board-certified with admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Mississippi once had several abortion clinics. Only one remains: the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in the state capital. Owner Diane Derzis has said it will be difficult for her doctors to obtain local admitting privileges, since many of them live out of state and commute to the clinic, fearing harassment by members of Mississippi’s antiabortion movement.

Bryant, a Republican, was elected in November after running as an outspoken abortion foe. “I believe that all human life is precious, and as governor, I will work to ensure that the lives of the born and unborn are protected in Mississippi,” he said in a statement Monday.

The bill takes effect July 1. Derzis has said she will consider suing the state to suspend the law if her doctors are unable to comply.

Wayne Slocum, vice chairman of the Mississippi section of the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said doctors in private practice would still be able to perform elective abortions in the state.

However, Derzis’ clinic is probably the only place where a woman can have the procedure, Slocum said. Other doctors object for moral reasons, or they are afraid of pressure from antiabortion groups.