Mississippi’s new abortion ban outlaws abortion after 15 weeks
Mississippi is on the verge of imposing the country’s harshest abortion laws, which would make abortion illegal at 15 weeks, but the state’s only remaining abortion clinic is already preparing to sue.
The new law passed the Mississippi House Thursday by a vote of 75–34. Mississippi already bans abortion after 20 weeks, but the new law reduces that timeline to 15 weeks. It doesn’t contain exceptions for rape or incest, but it does allow abortions if the mother’s life or a “major bodily function” is at risk or if the fetus has a medical condition that prevents it from surviving outside the womb.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has already said he plans to sign the bill within days, making Mississippi’s abortion law the most restrictive in the country. He tweeted that he wants Mississippi to “be the safest place in America for an unborn child.” In 2016, Mississippi was ranked last for maternal, infant, and child health outcomes in the U.S., but apparently Bryant’s only worried about the health of the unborn children in Mississippi.
Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, performs abortions up to 16 weeks gestation. Clinic owner Diane Derzis told The Clarion Ledger that this ban unduly targets women who don’t have the means to travel out of state to get an abortion. “It’s poor women forced into having a child they neither want nor can afford — and neither does the state of Mississippi,” she said. She told The Clarion Ledger she plans to sue.
Adrienne Kimmell, NARAL Pro-Choice America’s vice president of communications and strategic research, agrees. She said in a statement: “Let’s be clear about the real outcomes for women if abortion ban bills like H.B. 1510 are signed into law. The number of abortions will not go down, and the number of deaths and injuries to women will rise.”
Mississippi’s new law is by no means the first Republican attempt to restrict abortion rights. In November, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) presented a bill that would effectively make abortion illegal in the U.S.. Called the “Heartbeat Protection Act of 2017, “King’s bill would ban abortion at six weeks, or at the first sign of a fetal heartbeat. Similar bills have repeatedly failed at the state level, but King has said he’s confident his bill will succeed.
“By the time we march this thing down to the Supreme Court, the faces on the bench will be different — we just don’t know how much different, but I’m optimistic,” King told reporters in January. For now, King’s bill is stuck in committee.
As King hinted, Republicans know their attacks on abortion won’t survive a court challenge today. Courts have repeatedly struck down abortion bans before 20 weeks. Republicans are banking on the rumored retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, which would give President Trump the power to appoint a second justice to the Supreme Court.
Justice Kennedy is a centrist, so replacing him with a conservative justice would give Republicans the votes they need to overturn Roe v. Wade. And that would pave the way for a The Handmaid’s Tale-esque scenario where abortion rights are repealed nationwide.
“Roe is clearly in danger and that’s what they’re preparing for,” Derzis told The Clarion Ledger. “They hope by the time they get to the Supreme Court they will have changed the Supreme Court.”