A federal judge on Sunday temporarily blocked enforcement of a Mississippi law that could shut down the only abortion facility in the state.
U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan in Jackson issued a temporary restraining order the day the new law took effect.
He set a July 11 hearing to determine whether to block the law for a longer time.
"Though the debate over abortion continues, there exists legal precedent the court must follow," Jordan wrote.
The law requires anyone performing abortions at the state's only facility to be an OB-GYN with privileges to admit patients to a local hospital. Since such privileges can be difficult to obtain, the facility contends the mandate is designed to put it out of business. Betty Thompson, a spokeswoman for the abortion facility, Jackson Women's Health Organization, has said the two abortionists there are OB-GYNs who travel from other states.
The abortion facility in Jackson had filed a lawsuit seeking to block the law. The suit says the admitting privileges requirement is not medically necessary and is designed to put the facility out of business.
If Jackson Women's Health Organization closes, Mississippi would be the only state without an abortion clinic.
When Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed the law, House Bill 1390, he said he wants Mississippi to be "abortion-free."
"Gov. Bryant believes HB 1390 is an important step in strengthening abortion regulations and protecting the health and safety of women," Bryant spokesman Mick Bullock said in a statement Sunday night. "The federal judge's decision is disappointing, and Gov. Bryant plans to work with state leaders to ensure this legislation properly takes effect as soon as possible."
In the order, Jordan wrote, "Plaintiffs have offered evidence-including quotes from significant legislative and executive officers-that the Act's purpose is to eliminate abortions in Mississippi. They likewise submitted evidence that no safety or health concerns motivated its passage. This evidence has not yet been rebutted."
Jordan also wrote that Jackson Women's Health Organization is "the only regular provider of abortions in Mississippi, and as of the Act's effective date, JWHO cannot comply with its requirements."
The Center for Reproductive Rights, based in New York, helped file the lawsuit for the Mississippi abortion facility.
Republican Rep. Sam Mims of McComb, who sponsored the new law, said it is designed to protect the health of every woman who has an abortion.
"We know for a fact that this is a serious procedure," Mims said in an interview Sunday. "Women can have complications."
Mississippi abortionists who perform fewer than 10 abortions a month can avoid having their offices regulated as an abortion facility, and thus avoid restrictions in the new law. The Health Department said it doesn't have a record of how many abortionists perform fewer than 10 abortions a month. Jackson Women's Health Organization representatives said almost all the abortions in the state are done in their building.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.