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Mississippi Legislature Passes Bill Banning Abortion After Fetal Heartbeat Detected; Governor To Sign Into Law

On Wednesday, the Mississippi state Senate and House of Representatives passed bills to prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable (between six and seven weeks gestation).

While the bills offer "life of the mother" exceptions, they do not make exceptions for infants conceived in rape or incest. An amendment to provide such an exception was proposed during debate, but it was ultimately defeated.

On the day the bills passed, Republican Governor Phil Bryant sent out a tweet saying that he intends to sign the legislation into law:

I’ve often said I want Mississippi to be the safest place for an unborn child in America. I appreciate the leadership of the MS House and Senate, along with members of the Legislature, for passing the fetal heartbeat bills today. I look forward to signing this act upon passage.

The pertinent text of the Senate bill reads in part:

Except when a medical emergency exists that prevents compliance with this section, no person shall perform an abortion on a pregnant woman before determining if the unborn human individual that the pregnant woman is carrying has a detectable fetal heartbeat. Any person who performs an abortion on a pregnant woman based on the exception in this section shall note in the pregnant woman's medical records that a medical emergency necessitating the abortion existed. ...

Except as provided in paragraph (b) or (c) of this subsection (5), no person shall knowingly perform an abortion on a pregnant woman with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of the life of the unborn human individual that the pregnant woman is carrying and whose fetal heartbeat has been detected according to the requirements of subsection (3) of this section.

The legislation goes on to make exceptions for doctors who engage in procedures that would "prevent the death of a pregnant woman or to prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman."

In response to the bill’s passage, the Center for Reproductive Rights tweeted:

Last November, a federal judge struck down Mississippi’s 15-week ban, calling the law "unequivocally" unconstitutional. Now, the state is pushing an even more extreme measure, a 6-week abortion ban, in an attempt to eliminate abortion access in the state entirely.

According to the Clarion Ledger, during the floor debate on the bill, Democratic state Senator Derrick Simmons asked Republican state Senator Joey Fillingane if it was worth the money to fight this bill in court — a reference to the alleged $1.2 million the state spent fighting over 2018’s 15-week abortion ban.

Fillingane said that it was indeed worth it. Republican state Senator Michael Watson went further, asking, "What is a life worth?"

The legislation will most certainly be challenged in court.

As the above tweet noted, after Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban was signed into law in March 2018, the Center for Reproductive Rights sued. On November 20, 2018, District Judge Carlton W. Reeves ruled that the law was "unconstitutional." He added: "Mississippi’s law violates Supreme Court precedent, and in doing so it disregards the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of autonomy for women desiring to control their own reproductive health."

 
 
 

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