Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It's a Big Day in Mississippi

Edited to add: the decision has come down and the law continues to be blocked! YAAAAAY! Keep reading to see why I think that the judge has made the right decision.

An anti-abortion law is going before judges in Mississippi today. I'm really crossing my fingers on this one and hoping that anti-choice extremists are again put at bay by the more reasonable individuals in MS.

The law in question would require all abortion providers to be board certified OB-GYNs who have admitting privileges to a local hospital. If you don't know much about medical systems, this sounds pretty reasonable. If you dig a bit deeper you learn that this act would strategically result in the closure of MS's only abortion clinic, Jackson Women's Health Organization.

I hadn't been paying too much attention to the law (there's only so much one person can take, ya know?) But I did happen to hear a segment on Tell Me More this morning and it pulled me in. (You can listen to or read the coverage at Tell Me More's site.) Guest host Maria Hinojosa spoke with the bill's author, MS Representative Sam Mims. Listening to Rep. Mims confirmed for me just how truly awful this legislation is.

Proponents of this bill are masquerading as people who care about the health and safety of women seeking abortions, when really all they want is to do is end abortion in Mississippi. Hinojosa flat out asks Rep. Mims about the true intent of the law and Mims spouts off a talking point about care for the patients--but if his intent was to really care about women who need reproductive services and help them, why would he have created a law which restricts that very thing, and forces women to drive hundreds of miles to the next out-of-state clinic.

And the anti-choice sentiment here isn't even really thinly veiled. Take, for example, what MS Lieutenant Governor Reeves said about the law: "We have an opportunity today, with the signing of this bill, to end abortion in Mississippi."

Sure sounds like people who just wants to ensure that the Jackson Women's Health Organization is providing safe services, right? Rep. Mims himself isn't even able to set aside his anti-choice sentiments long enough to carry on his own farce. When Hinojosa brings up the fact that MS has the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation and suggests that access to abortion might be able to alleviate that, he said this...

We have to make sure that our children are not making bad choices. We want them to not have premarital sex. We want them to wait till they get married. We want them to make wise choices. And that's one part of this. The second issue, we also want them to choose life. We want them to realize that that is a life, and so we hope they choose life. We hope if they do not want to keep the child, we hope they look at adoption and other areas. And so, again, that is not the intent of the legislation. To me, this is a health care issue. 
Um what???

He comes right out and says that he wants them to "choose life" but then "this is not the intent of the legislation" and ends with a non sequitur about it being a "health care issue." He is all over the place. His discussion of the law is as deeply flawed as the law itself. I wonder if perhaps Rep. Mims has such a hard time logically defending this law because he knows it doesn't have legs to stand on.

Furthermore, let me make this clear right now, it is a joke to suggest that this particular MS clinic could just get into compliance with the law. In a follow up segment, Hinojosa speaks with Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing the Jackson Women's Health Organization. As Northrup explains,
They know that the doctors are coming from out of state because of the hostility towards abortion services in the state of Mississippi. And they know that, in this hostile atmosphere in Mississippi, the hospitals can turn them down - not because of anything in the doctor's background. I mean, these are very well-qualified physicians...The doctors have tried to comply with the law. They have applied to get admitting privileges. But it was known that they wouldn't be able to do this...
Listen, I'm not a fool. I know that there will always be anti-choice leaders and legislation (I wish I could say that I can see an end to it someday. I can't.) But I would prefer they at least be genuine about their intentions so that we could have this out in the open for what it really is: a direct attack on Roe v. Wade. To pretend this is about providing good care for women who are seeking a medical service that Rep. Mims and his kind deeply despise is insulting and diversionary.

Like I said, as the situation stands now the law will go before a judge. Hopefully that person understands this law exactly for what it is, in Northrup's words, "the intent of this law is to block access to abortion services, and the Supreme Court has made clear that you can't do that."

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