Finally, Some Good News for Reproductive Rights in the South

It’s been a tough summer for reproductive rights, mostly thanks to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling. But there’s been some good news on the frontline of the struggle for reproductive freedom in the last couple weeks, thanks to court rulings in Mississippi and Alabama.

The Deep South is one of the most fraught battlefields for reproductive freedom. There is only one abortion clinic in the entire state of Mississippi, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which has been in danger of being closed for the last year thanks to a law requiring abortion providers to also have hospital-admitting privileges. It’s a law passed to squeeze the clinic out of existence, since the doctors—like Willie Parker, profiled in this excellent Esquire piece—come in from out-of-state, making it difficult for them to obtain admitting privileges. But the Fifth Court of Appeals ruled to strike down the law and allow the clinic to stay open, arguing that Mississippi could not just pass off the reproductive needs of its citizens to neighboring states.

Then this week, another small victory for abortion rights came out of Alabama, where U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson struck down a similar law, arguing that it is unconstitutional.

“A significant number of the women would be prevented from obtaining an abortion and others would be delayed in obtaining abortions, exposing them to greater risks of complications; and even the women who are able to obtain abortions would suffer significant harms in terms of time, financial cost, and invasion of privacy,” Thompson concluded.

The judge even compared abortion rights to gun rights in the state, arguing that if similar restrictions were placed against, say, a place that sold firearms, it would also be unconstitutional. It’s a powerful message: No one part of the Constitution is more important than the other. The right to an abortion is just as serious as the right to bare arms.

What does that mean? Certainly not that the fight is over, but that a swiftly closing door has been propped open once again. There is hope, still. And that is worth something.

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