Good news – the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit just refused to reconsider a panel’s earlier decision to block a Mississippi law that would have closed the state’s only abortion clinic. The law required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and was meant to — and would have — forced the sole clinic in the state to shut its doors. But the panel said the law went too far and was unconstitutional — the full court’s decision not to rehear the case means that the clinic stays open. This is great news for Mississippi women who will continue to have access to abortion in their state.
This is the same court that upheld a similar restriction in Texas, finding that it was not unconstitutional because it did not constitute an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion. After all, the judges reasoned, there were still abortion clinics in the state, even if some women have to drive 250 miles to reach them. Is this what the undue burden standard has come to mean for the 5th Circuit? It has to result in literally no access to abortion in the state? It can’t be that “undue burden” means a complete and total obstacle to abortion, where the only laws the court will strike down are those that force women to cross state lines to get an abortion.