It’s been 40 years since the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, yet the battle over abortion is still being waged across the country. These days, that battle isn’t in the high courts but in the states.
Diane Derzis is on the front-lines of the fight. She’s the owner of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s only remaining abortion clinic, and thanks to a restrictive regulatory law passed and signed by Republicans, she may have to shut down that clinic. “The war is definitely on the state level now,” she said on PoliticsNation Tuesday. “This law that we cannot comply with would in effect close this clinic, so while Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land, [abortion] is totally inaccessible in the state of Mississippi.”
Under the law passed in 2012, all doctors at the clinic are required to have admitting privileges at a hospital, but the requirements for getting admitting privileges typically have restrictions. Doctors at the clinic have applied for admitting privileges at seven nearby hospitals, and been denied by all.
Derzis claims that Republicans who wrote the legislation knew that would happen, and there’s some evidence she might be right. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant said at a recent pro-life event, “My goal of course is to shut [the clinic] down.“
The deadline for compliance passed this month, and Derzis now waits to hear from state officials, so she can appeal the law in the courts.
If the clinic is closed, the roughly 2,000 women who go there for abortions each year will be forced to travel out-of-state. That is mostly likely to affect poorer women in the state, who can’t afford the time off work or travel expenses associated with a trip.
Mississippi is far from the only state facing this battle. It’s one of five states with only one abortion clinic, and lawmakers in states like Virginia have passed similar “TRAP” laws designed to shutter clinic doors.
Modern technologies and the advent of telemedicine may pose a new solution for women in Mississippi and elsewhere, but Republicans have tried to limit those options in some states too.
Derzis says the ultimate solution is for voters to petition their elected officials and to stop electing pro-life lawmakers at the state level.
“The women and men in these states need to be calling and demanding that their representatives and their legislators leave this business alone,” she said. “And the next election is absolutely crucial. Thanks goodness we’ve reelected President Obama, but that doesn’t help us on a state level right now.”
“The next election is absolutely crucial.”