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Miss. Rep: Abortion Clinic Regulation Protects Women


I'm Maria Hinojosa, and this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. Michel Martin is away. Coming up, we look at a growing trend: moms starting their own businesses. It can come with more flexibility, but there are also emotional and financial risks. We talk to a group of mom-preneurs, and that's just ahead.

But first, we look at a law that could effectively close Mississippi's only abortion clinic. Tomorrow, a U.S. district court will hear arguments about a law requiring doctors who perform abortions at the clinic to be state certified OB-GYNs. The doctors must also have hospital-admitting privileges.

But abortion rights advocates say the law isn't really about protecting women's health and safety. They say the real intent of this law is to close down the facility. The law has been temporarily blocked pending the court's decision. If the law stands, Mississippi would become the only state without an abortion clinic.

In a moment, we'll hear from a lawyer who's fighting to overturn the law. But joining me now is Mississippi State Representative Sam Mims. He's the author of the law. He's also chairman of the Mississippi House Health Committee. Representative Mims, welcome to our program.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE SAM MIMS: Well, thank you. Glad to be with you today.

HINOJOSA: A lot of the controversy surrounding this bill is its intention. And so first I want to play a clip from Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves talking about the bill.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR TATE REEVES: We have an opportunity today, with the signing of this bill, to end abortion in Mississippi.

HINOJOSA: So, as the author of the bill, representative, do you hope it does ban abortion in Mississippi?

MIMS: The intent of this legislation is two parts. One, we believe it's important to make sure that the physician that is providing this abortion be a certified OB-GYN, a professional OB-GYN. And secondly, we believe anyone that's performing abortions at this facility clinic must have admitting privileges in a local hospital.

And so, as you know, that we do not have the ability to ban abortions in Mississippi. Now, of course, the Constitution, Roe versus Wade, continues the law of the land. And so this is really a licensure issue on an abortion facility clinic in Mississippi.

So that is the intent of the legislation, is to make sure that if somebody is receiving an abortion, that they can get the proper care they can. And so we hope and we pray that nothing goes wrong during this very serious procedure. But if it does, we want someone to be certified, and then we want that physician to be able to follow that patient at a local hospital.

HINOJOSA: But representative, in the state of Mississippi, for example, at least a couple of those abortion providers are flying in from out of state because of the fact that they say it's difficult to live in your state and be an abortion provider. And then they say, look, anybody has to be admitted into an emergency room if there's a problem. You don't have to have an admitting doctor, necessarily.

So the people who run the abortion clinic, they say, basically, this is a bureaucratic delaying tactic in order to essentially close down the clinic.

MIMS: I would simply disagree. We are, I would think, one of the most friendly states in the nation. And so we respect everybody's position. We respect everybody's career choice. So I just don't buy that argument.

Again, the intent of this legislation is for health care, to make sure that when they're receiving this procedure, that they're getting the best care they can. And so, again, we hope and pray that nothing goes wrong, but things do go wrong. And so we want them to get the most - the best possible care ever.

I would also say that this legislation does not address when a person can receive an abortion. It does address any exceptions for abortions. This is simply a licensure issue on this one abortion clinic in Mississippi.

HINOJOSA: So if the Jackson Women's Health Organization does, in fact, close, the nearest abortion clinic will be about 200 miles away. Is forcing your state's sole abortion clinic to close in the best health interest of the women of your state?

MIMS: Well, even if this abortion clinic closes, abortion is still legal in Mississippi. We don't have the ability to outlaw it. And so that argument that if this abortion clinic closes, that no one can receive an abortion is just silly. It's not true, because we know if a mother is pregnant and she has to abort this child because of the life of the mother, then that's going to continue.

HINOJOSA: Sir, you have the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the United States, 60 percent higher than the national average. Do you think that not offering this alternative of a possibility of an abortion in your state is the way to deal with these teen pregnancies?

MIMS: No, ma'am. I think that, to me, that's a broader issue. 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.

HINOJOSA: And finally, how do you think the courts are going to rule, representative?

MIMS: We simply don't know. They will have a hearing, I guess, sometime on Wednesday, and we will what the judges - see how the judges rule.

HINOJOSA: Mississippi State Representative Sam Mims is the author of a bill that could effectively close the only abortion clinic in Mississippi. He's also chairman of the Mississippi House Health Committee. Representative Mims, thanks again for being here.

MIMS: Yes, ma'am. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.