By Bob Allen
After endorsing a failed “personhood” amendment to the state constitution last fall, Mississippi Baptist leaders are now backing legislation that observers say could shut down the state’s only abortion clinic.
Passed by Mississippi’s House of Representatives March 13, HB 1390 would require that all physicians who work in facilities that operate for the purpose of performing abortions be licensed to practice medicine in Mississippi and have admitting privileges at a local hospital.
Supporters of the bill say it would provide better health care for women. Abortion-rights supporters, however, say the real intent is to close down Jackson Women’s Health Organization , the state’s only abortion facility.
According to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, House Public Health Committee Chairman Sam Mims said hospitals have the right to refuse admitting privileges to physicians, so it’s possible the abortion clinic would find it impossible to come into compliance with the new law.
“If this bill causes less abortions to happen, I believe it’s a positive result,” said Mims, a Republican from McComb, Miss.
Rob Chambers, a consultant with the Christian Action Commission of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, said his office supports the measure and planned to release an action alert March 15. The commission also supports a bill that would make it illegal for doctors to perform an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected, effectively banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy except in a medical emergency.
The House passed the fetal heartbeat bill March 14. It now goes to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain. An action alert on the CAC website cited “justifiable concerns” that the bill would be allowed to die in a committee.
That’s what happened to Senate Bill 2008, which would have required that physicians who perform abortions in abortion facilities must be board certified in obstetrics and gynecology. That bill, also supported by Mississippi Baptists, was referred to a health and public welfare committee, where it died.
Last fall Mississippi Baptists were active in efforts to pass a constitutional amendment to declare a fertilized human egg as a person, making abortion illegal in the state. More than 55 percent of Mississippi voters rejected the amendment.