Mississippi's last abortion clinic expands lawsuit on restrictions

(Reuters) - Mississippi’s last remaining abortion provider expanded a federal challenge on Monday to laws that ban abortions in the state after 15 weeks of pregnancy and block access to the procedure in myriad ways, it said.

FILE PHOTO: Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, arrives at B.B. King's funeral in Indianola, Mississippi, U.S., May 30, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

The ban on abortions after 15 weeks, signed into law last month by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, put the strictest time limit on legal abortions in the United States.

Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion clinic in the state, initially filed the lawsuit in March to target the 15-week limit. It submitted an amended complaint on Monday to go after other restrictions on abortion.

The lawsuit, filed in Jackson, the state capital, says Mississippi singles out clinics that perform abortions with stricter licensing requirements and regulations than other medical clinics.

The complaint asks the court to reverse state laws that require women to make two separate trips to a clinic before an abortion is performed and to wait 24 hours after receiving state-mandated information on the procedure.

It says the 15-week limit is part of a 25-year legislative campaign to eliminate women’s constitutional right to access abortion in Mississippi.

A federal judge blocked the new law through April 13.

Bryant, a Republican, has defended the legislation, saying it was intended to protect the health of mothers-to-be.

“I want Mississippi to be the safest place in America for an unborn child,” he said in a statement emailed to Reuters on Monday.

But Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the law was really about “shaming women and blocking access to abortion care.”

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 ruled in Roe v. Wade that women have the constitutional right to an abortion.

Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien