A doctor based out of California has announced plans to administer offshore abortions by founding an aquatic clinic that would float in the Gulf of Mexico. The boat would be positioned around three miles offshore, and patients would need to be ferried to the ship in order to receive care. Matt Steffey teaches Maritime Law at the Mississippi College School of Law. He says being that far offshore could allow the boat to operate regardless of state law, although the limits are vague.
Steffey says “It’s possible a court could ultimately conclude Mississippi criminal jurisdiction wouldn’t extend to a person leaving Mississippi for a boat offshore and returning to the state. It’s possible that it’s outside the reach of the [state] law. But It doesn’t mean the state couldn’t try.”
Not only would the boat-based clinic need to stay out of state-controlled waters, but it will also face hurdles in terms of weather such as the Gulf’s tumultuous hurricane season. And Steffey says it is unclear exactly what agency will govern the health regulations on the vessel.
“Is it going to be subject to the health and safety medical licensure laws of the state of Mississippi? It’s possible that whoever operates the boat will be licensed to have a doctor on board and perform procedures according to the country that the vessel originates from, so there may be a jurisdiction that regulates the medical aspect of this, but it won’t be Mississippi.”
According to the Associated Press, organizers are accepting donations and are continuing to plan the logistics of how the aquatic clinic would operate.