The Mississippi Legislature recently passed a new law that is aimed at shutting down the single remaining abortion provider left in the state. Beginning on July 1st, all doctors who perform abortions must be an OB/GYN and have admitting privileges to a local hospital. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the state’s one abortion provider, is staffed by physicians who are OB/GYNs, but only one has admitting privileges. Two Jackson hospitals are religiously affiliated and not likely to grant admitting privileges to abortion providers. Supporters of the bill state the mission is to prevent “back-alley” abortions. Opponents of the bill say that the restrictions will likely cause the clinic to be shut down if hospitals refuse to grant admitting privileges to the doctors at the clinic, many of whom commute from Alabama.
The true purpose of the bill becomes clear when Republican Mississippi state Rep. Bubba Carpenter celebrates the passage of the bill by crowing, “We have literally stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi.” He goes on to address concerns that the loss of the state’s one clinic will result in more illegal abortions:
“We have literally stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi. Three blocks from the Capitol sits the only abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi. A bill was drafted. It said, if you would perform an abortion in the state of Mississippi, you must be a certified OB/GYN and you must have admitting privileges to a hospital. Anybody here in the medical field knows how hard it is to get admitting privileges to a hospital…
“It’s going to be challenged, of course, in the Supreme Court and all — but literally, we stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi, legally, without having to– Roe vs. Wade. So we’ve done that. I was proud of it. The governor signed it into law. And of course, there you have the other side. They’re like, ‘Well, the poor pitiful women that can’t afford to go out of state are just going to start doing them at home with a coat hanger.’ That’s what we’ve heard over and over and over.
“But hey, you have to have moral values. You have to start somewhere, and that’s what we’ve decided to do. This became law and the governor signed it, and I think for one time, we were first in the nation in the state of Mississippi.”
Yes, Bubba, Mississippi is first in the nation at a few things. Most famously, the state is first in poverty rates AND ranked first in the nation with teen pregnancy rates. Way to go, Mississippi! Soon, it may not even have a single abortion provider. Already, there is only one Planned Parenthood in the state. Most women have very little access to contraceptives or medical care. Bubba doesn’t seem concerned about the women who, driven by desperation, may resort to unsafe abortions. Laura Conaway of the Maddow Blog, reports:
“I got a chance to ask Representative Carpenter about the coat hanger part today. ‘That was what a lot of our critics on the House floor said during the debate,” he told me. ‘That was just some language that some of the African-Americans used.’ A few white Democrats also spoke out about the old ‘home remedies,’ he remembered, but in the end the measure passed with support from several Democrats.”
Why he had to make a distinction about the race of the people concerned about coat hangers, I’m not sure. Currently, women who seek an abortion in Mississippi must travel to Jackson to obtain one. She must also undergo mandatory counseling in person, after which she must wait for 24 hours, necessitating two trips to the clinic. This places an undue hardship on poor women, who may have to arrange for travel, lodging, childcare, and time off of work twice. The ultimate goal of this new law is to completely take away all choice by removing access, a similar tactic that is being used in states all across the country. Caring for women and treating them as more than incubation vessels would be cool, but “hey, you have to have moral values,” right?