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Mississippi Laws Banning Abortion Permitted to Take Effect

July 6, 2022, 1:15 PM

Most abortions will be halted in Mississippi after a state trial court judge ruled that officials can enforce two laws banning the procedure in a case challenging their validity under the state constitution, a Mississippi trial court said.

Jackson Women’s Health Organization and other abortion providers didn’t show they’re likely to win on a claim that the Mississippi Constitution protects a right to terminate a pregnancy, Special Chancellor Debbra K. Halford, of the Mississippi Chancery Court said in denying the providers’ motion for a preliminary injunction.

The case is one of several filed by providers shortly after the US Supreme Court decided Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and declared that there is no federal constitutional right to abortion. They argue that various state constitutions provide greater protections for abortion access than the US Constitution.

This suit involves a law that bans abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy and a second, near-total “trigger” ban designed to take effect if the nation’s top court overruled Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which it did June 24.

Jackson Women’s argued that the Mississippi Supreme Court recognized that the state constitution protects a right to abortion in Pro-Choice Mississippi v. Fordice. But the 1998 Fordice opinion relied heavily on Roe and Casey, which are no longer good law, and it’s unlikely the state supreme court will uphold Fordice on review, Halford said.

Patients and providers will suffer irreparable harm if the laws are put into effect, Halford said. But those harms are outweighed by the harm to the state, which will be unable to enforce laws that advance legitimate state interests, the court said.

An injunction prohibiting enforcement is inconsistent with citizens’ strong public interest in having state laws enforced, Halford also said Tuesday.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and Mississippi Center for Justice represent the providers.

The case is Jackson Women’s Health Org. v. Dobbs, Miss. Ch. Ct., No. 22-cv-739, 7/5/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Anne Pazanowski in Washington at mpazanowski@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Carmen Castro-Pagán at ccastro-pagan@bloomberglaw.com