A federal judge has stopped the closure of the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi, a sign of how the anti-choice movement has focused on access as much as the legality of abortion. Mississippi passed a law that would have closed this clinic, as it created onerous rules for any facility seeking to perform abortions to follow.

U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan in Jackson issued a temporary restraining order Sunday, hours after the new law took effect.

He set a July 11 hearing to determine whether to block the law for a longer time.

The law requires everyone who performs abortion at the clinic to be an OB-GYN with privileges to admit patients to a local hospital.

These “TRAP laws,” which stands for targeted regulation of abortion providers, are becoming more and more prevalent and more creative. They range from a medically unnecessary requirement like forcing the provider to have admitting privileges, down to the width of hallways. It’s basically a way to use zoning restrictions and other laws typically administered at the local level to force out abortion clinics.

Many TRAP bills grant broad authority to the state department of health to develop structural and staffing requirements for abortion clinics. Often, the resulting regulations are based on existing hospital guidelines including specific dimensions for procedure rooms and hallways, doorway widths, and complex ventilation systems. Some regulations mandate what types of medical professionals must be on staff, assign certain duties to various staff members or require patient evaluations that are not medically necessary. These types of regulations are not medically justified. Abortion has an outstanding safety record. Instead, these regulations create a large burden for small outpatient clinics. Clinics can be forced to extensively remodel and hire new staff or even close entirely, resulting in women having to travel great distances to obtain abortion care.

These regulations have been incredibly successful, along with the other aspects of how the anti-choice movement intimidates and resists clinic access. The latest statistics, from 2000, show that 87% of all US counties do not have one abortion provider, and subtracting major metropolitan areas, that grows to 97%. The fact that there was only one abortion clinic in Mississippi to begin with, despite the fact that abortion is a legal medical procedure, is as much of the problem as the effort to eliminate it. And the ruling to keep the clinic open is only temporary, pending hearings and appeals.

Jeff Fecke has more on the case.