Hinds County judges recuse themselves from abortion lawsuit challenging ‘trigger law’
The four chancery judges, Denise Owens, J. Dewayne Thomas, Crystal Wise Martin and Tiffany Grove, recused themselves from the case Tuesday and requested the state Supreme Court appoint a special judge to hear the case.
Earlier on Tuesday, attorneys for Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only remaining abortion clinic in the state, filed a request for a temporary restraining order.
The order, if enacted by the court, would temporarily halt a trigger law that would ban most abortions in the state and another law that would ban abortions in the state after the sixth week of pregnancy.
Roe v. Wade, which upheld the constitutional right to an abortion, was overturned on Friday in a watershed decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. On Monday, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch certified that Roe had been overturned, meaning that under an existing (or trigger) law, abortions would be banned in the state after 10 days.
But later Monday, the lawsuit was filed saying the trigger law and the six-week ban were invalid because an all but forgotten 1998 ruling by the state Supreme Court that held the right to an abortion was protected by the state constitution.
“Given that the decision was issued by the Mississippi Supreme Court based on the Mississippi Constitution, it is not dependent upon the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution,” the lawsuit filed on behalf of the abortion clinic said.
The 1998 Supreme Court decision saying the right to an abortion was protected by the state constitution upheld a decision issued by then-Hinds County Chancellor Patricia Wise. The lawsuit filed Tuesday by the abortion providers was originally assigned to Wise’s daughter, Chancellor Crystal Wise Martin, before she and the other Hinds County chancellors recused themselves Tuesday.
It is not clear whether the state will try to enforce the trigger law if the case is not resolved within 10 days. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Fitch’s office has said the office would not comment on pending litigation.