There’s only one abortion clinic left in the entire state of Mississippi. The Jackson Women’s Health Organization has been struggling to remain open for more than a year, ever since the state’s Republican lawmakers enacted harsh new regulations that are intended to force it to close. Even though the clinic is winning its legal battles against the stringent law, anti-choice activists aren’t planning on giving up quite yet.
In April, a federal judge temporarily blocked the state law from immediately taking effect, which has allowed the Jackson clinic to continue operating. The clinic can’t be forced to closed while the case is still pending in state courts.
Perhaps frustrated that the litigation isn’t going in their favor, several anti-choice groups in the state have now joined forced to try a new approach. They recently filed a complaint with Mississippi’s health department, claiming that the Women’s Health Organization hasn’t been accurately reporting statistics to state officials and needs to be the subject of a formal investigation.
Leaders of Pro-Life Mississippi, Physicians for Life Mississippi, Mississippi Right To Life, and Pro Life Action Network all signed onto the letter, which claims that the clinic is “in a continuing state of non-compliance with the Abortion Reporting Law enacted in 2004, Miss. Code Ann. 41-41-78.” Under that law, the Women’s Health Organization is required to report the number of medical abortions they perform, as well as any complications that arise from those abortion procedures. As RH Reality Check notes, the complaint does not offer any “independent evidence” that the clinic is actually failing to accurately report that data.
Claiming that legal abortion clinics are unsafe, and suggesting they’re not following the complicated web of state-level restrictions leveled against them, is a popular anti-choice tactic. Texas recently enacted its own sweeping abortion clinic regulations that include the same harsh rules that are threatening to close Mississippi’s last clinic. Even though the state’s health department testified that the legislation was entirely unnecessary because clinics are already safe, Republicans pushed the measure through anyway — and now, multiple clinics are already starting to close.
A wave of clinic closures is spreading across the country. Over the past three years, more than 50 abortion clinics have been forced to shut down, largely because of budget cuts and state-level laws targeted against them. Abortion opponents typically justify those closures by claiming they simply want to protect women from patronizing unsafe, unregulated clinics. But a Republican-commissioned investigation into abortion clinics in all 50 states recently discovered the opposite: clinics are already highly regulated, and they’re already very safe.
Regardless of the validity of the new complaints against the Jackson clinic, the state’s health officials will be forced to look into them. “Yes, we will conduct an investigation as soon as possible,” Liz Sharlot, the communications director for the health department, told the Associated Press, explaining that they’re required to follow up with any complaints about state-run facilities. “Our role is to inspect facilities to ensure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing.”