A Jackson Womens Health Organization worker informing public the clinic is open in Jackson, Friday, June 24, 2022. After 50 years, the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade in a 5-4 vote. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

All four Hinds County chancellors recused themselves from the lawsuit filed by the state’s only abortion clinic asking that a law banning abortions in Mississippi be stopped from taking effect.

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.

READ MORE: 1998 state court ruling leads to lawsuit that could prolong Mississippi abortion fight

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.


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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.