Mississippi judge sets hearing on challenge to abortion law

·2 min read

A Mississippi judge has set a Tuesday hearing in a lawsuit by the state’s only abortion clinic, which seeks to block a law that would ban most abortions. A temporary restraining order would allow the clinic to remain open, at least while the lawsuit is pending.

The law is set to take effect two days after the hearing. It says abortion will be legal in Mississippi only if the pregnant woman’s life is in danger or if a pregnancy is caused by a rape reported to law enforcement. It does not have an exception for pregnancies caused by incest.

Mississippi was one of several states with a “trigger” law contingent on the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, its 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Mississippi’s trigger law was passed in 2007 and has never been challenged in court. The clinic’s lawsuit cites a 1998 Mississippi Supreme Court ruling that said the state constitution invokes a right to privacy that “includes an implied right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.”

The suit was filed Monday in Hinds County Chancery Court, three days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in a case that originated in Mississippi.

The clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, has continued to see patients, but owner Diane Derzis said it will close if the near-ban on abortions takes effect.

All four Hinds County chancery judges recused themselves from the case. They cited rules that say judges should not handle cases that might present a conflict, but they did not specify what the conflicts would be.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Randolph late Thursday appointed another chancery judge, Debbra K. Halford, to hear the case. Halford is from a chancery court district in the southwestern part of the state.

The hearing Tuesday is scheduled to take place in Hinds County Chancery Court. If Halford grants the clinic’s request for a temporary restraining order to block the new law from taking effect, that decision could be quickly appealed to the state Supreme Court.

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