Last Mississippi Abortion Clinic Faces New Complaint

With legislative efforts to close the Jackson Women’s Health Organization tied up in federal court, anti-choice activists in Mississippi have adopted an alternative strategy to try and close the last remaining abortion clinic in the state. According to reports, leaders of Pro-Life Mississippi, Physicians for Life Mississippi, Mississippi Right to Life, and the Pro Life Action Network filed a complaint with the state Department of Health last week questioning what they characterize as “discrepancies” in abortion statistics reported by the clinic to the state and in what the groups believe to be the practices at the Jackson clinic. Those “discrepancies,” the anti-choice groups claim, raise the question of whether or not the clinic is in compliance with state law.

The alleged discrepancies the anti-choice groups would like state investigators to examine include instances when the clinic reported a gestational age of “unknown.” In those cases, the groups would like the state to perform a complete audit on clinic files to recalculate and “correct” the reporting to confirm the clinic is not performing late-term abortions and not “hiding” those procedures in the unknown gestational age reporting. According to the groups, there is also no reporting of any medical abortions, despite the fact that the service is advertised on the clinic’s website. Finally, the groups claim, the low number of reported complications should raise suspicion because it is “amazingly low” for a facility that performs thousands of surgical abortions a year.

The complaint, filed via a letter to state health officials, asks the state to perform a complete investigation and audit into the clinic’s reporting practices but offers no independent evidence the clinic is misreporting its data. Nonetheless, officials for the State of Mississippi are obligated to investigate all complaints filed against any state-licensed facility.

While there is no immediate time frame for such an investigation, any audit would likely run into deadlines related to the legal challenge to Mississippi’s admitting privileges law, which is set for trial in March 2014. The law was to take effect July 1, 2012, but a federal judge first blocked the state from closing the clinic while physicians tried to get admitting privileges. After those efforts failed, the court ruled the state couldn’t close the clinic while the legal challenge is pending. Attorneys for the state have said they will ask a federal appeals court to overturn that ruling.

For anti-choice activists, this latest complaint means that even if the litigation around Mississippi’s admitting privileges law ultimately fails they will have succeeded in tying the clinic up in another expensive and protracted legal and administrative process. For abortion rights advocates in the state, it means time and resources spent defending against allegations the clinic is in violation of reporting laws based on statistics published by state health officials and not the clinic itself. And for residents of Mississippi, it means the legal bills associated with the anti-choice campaign to close the Jackson Women’s Health Organization just got even more expensive.

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  • fiona64

    These idiots seem to want multiple bites out of the apple. Gah.

  • L-dan

    “Finally, the groups claim, the low
    number of reported complications should raise suspicion because it is
    “amazingly low” for a facility that performs thousands of surgical
    abortions a year.”

    I’d hazard a guess that ‘unknown’ is more likely to be at the other end of the spectrum. Too early to pin down a week because it can’t be imaged well.

    But really? Their rate of complications are amazingly low and this is cause for concern? It’s one of the safest procedures out there to begin with. With only one clinic in the state, you’d expect many women experiencing complications afterwards to go to their local health facility, which would provide evidence of these hidden complications they’re worrying about. Shouldn’t they have some evidence *before* going after them for having a safety record that’s “too good”?


    • jruwaldt

      I guess, if the safety record is “too good,” it must be because we haven’t dug enough to find out what’s really going on. It’s kind of like with voter fraud. “We know it’s there, so, if we haven’t found any, it must be because it’s hidden so well.” Therefore, we’re going to further restrict the voting rights of people who are likely to vote Democrat.

      • Dez

        And guess who gets screwed over in both situations. Black women. Anti-choicers can kiss the dark side of my a$$.

  • Cait McKnelly

    Well, the state of Kansas took away the license of a doctor that provided abortions for “poor documentation”, despite the fact that no doctor in the history of the state had ever lost their license before for it. What have they got to lose? They’re taking a page from a successful playbook.