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Cheers and Fears

Roe v. Wade anniversary brings wary celebration and another court case.

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Part homage to pro-choice activists who paved the way and part call-to-arms against current threats to the law, a documentary screening and panel discussion at the University of Memphis on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade featured one panel member who was particularly aware of the present threats facing abortion rights.

Dr. Carl Reddix, an OB/GYN in Jackson, Mississippi, served as the attending hospital physician for the Jackson Women's Health Organization, the state's lone abortion clinic, for about 15 years. His job was to act as a sort of safety net for patients should anything go wrong during their procedure. 

While Reddix did not perform abortions, his position as the clinic's physician with hospital-admitting privileges allowed the Jackson Women's Health Organization to stay open under Mississippi law, which requires abortion clinics to have a physician on staff with such privileges.

Reddix also served on the Mississippi Board of Health, but he was dismissed less than a year after being appointed by then-Governor Haley Barbour. Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves said Reddix's connection with an abortion clinic was inappropriate for someone shaping health policy.

"The venom was spewed at me, because I was the conduit who allowed the clinic to be open under that previous law," Reddix said. "But then they went back to the state legislature and got this new bill passed."

That new bill, passed in April of last year, the same month Reddix was dismissed, required that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at hospitals. Reddix was not the doctor actually performing abortions, so this cut off his relationship with the Jackson Women's Health Organization. The bill also threatens the very existence of Mississippi's only abortion clinic. 

"The only reason to have the new law was expressly to deny access to providers," Reddix said. "The problem is that since most of the [abortion] providers are not Mississippi residents, it's difficult for them to get hospital privileges."

And without hospital privileges, the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi could be forced to close its doors.

"This is a strong bill that will effectively end abortion in Mississippi," Reeves said in a statement last spring.

As of this month, the Jackson Women's Health Organization has been unable to gain hospital-admitting privileges at any of the local hospitals and has received certified notification that the clinic is not in compliance with the law. 

Now, 40 years after Roe v. Wade ensured safe and legal abortions, another lawsuit is in the works fighting for the preservation of those same abortion rights won in 1973.

"Our attorney, Michelle Movahed at the Center for Reproductive Law & Policy, will be, if she hasn't already, filing a brief on our behalf claiming the law is unconstitutional," said Diane Derzis, owner of the Jackson Women's Health Organization. "Then the court battle begins."

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