JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A federal judge on Friday set a jury trial next spring for a lawsuit filed by Mississippi's only abortion clinic over a new law that it says would make it shut its doors.
Jackson Women's Health Organization sued the state in 2012 over a law requiring every OB-GYN at the clinic to have privileges to admit patients to a local hospital.
In an order published Friday in federal court records, U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III set March 3 as the beginning of jury selection.
After the clinic filed suit last summer, Jordan allowed the law to take effect but blocked the state from imposing penalties while the clinic seeks admitting privileges.
The clinic has remained open, but owner Diane Derzis said months ago that requests for privileges have been denied. Hospitals often won't give privileges to out-of-state physicians. The OB-GYNs working at the clinic don't live in Mississippi.
Supporters of the law, including Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, say it's designed to protect women's health, but opponents say it's designed to close the clinic and cut off access to abortion.
Outside Jackson Women's Health Organization on Friday, about a dozen abortion-rights supporters wore fluorescent yellow or pink vests and carried signs with the slogan "This Clinic Stays Open." A smaller number of abortion opponents prayed or tried to hand brochures to women who were entering or leaving the clinic, a cherry-pink building in Jackson's Fondren neighborhood, about two miles north of the Capitol building.
Roy McMillan stood on a corner across the street from the clinic, as he does several days each month, holding one large poster with a photo of an aborted fetus and another with the slogan "Abortion(equals)Black Genocide." McMillan, 69, said he believes American society is in sharp decline because of "relativism," "materialism" and "hedonism."
"I grew up in a time when girls said, `No.' They grew up scared of the natural consequences of sexual intercourse," McMillan said. "They were closer to God."
Andrea Strong, 33, of Seattle is taking part in the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, with more than a dozen people traveling to states that have few clinics or that are enacting laws that would restrict access to the procedure. Wearing a T-shirt with the slogan, "Abortion on Demand Without Apology," Strong said women should not face shame or social stigma for ending a pregnancy.
"Forced motherhood is a form of female enslavement," Strong said. "This is half of humanity we're talking about."
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