Mississippi Bill Would Create the Earliest State Abortion Ban, Protecting Babies After 15 Weeks

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jan 31, 2018   |   11:31AM   |   Jackson, MS

Mississippi House committee members approved a bill Tuesday to protect unborn babies and moms from abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

State House Bill 1510 would create the earliest ban on abortion in any state in the U.S. by pushing back Mississippi’s current limit by 5 weeks, according to the AP. The bill now moves to the full state House, where Republicans are the majority. The bill would prohibit abortions after 15 weeks except when there are risks to the life or physical health of the mother, or fatal fetal anomalies.

State Rep. Andy Gipson, chairman of the state House Judiciary B Committee, said they want to protect women’s health by prohibiting later-term abortions, which are riskier to women, the report states.

“The risk to the mother is the prime driver in this bill,” the Republican lawmaker said. “I think the Supreme Court has recognized that the states have an interest in protecting human life.”

Mississippi currently is one of more than a dozen states that prohibits abortions after 20 weeks. Owners of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion clinic in the state, said they do abortions up to 18 weeks

They are considering a legal challenge if the bill passes.

Here’s more from the report:

Felicia Brown-Williams, state director for Planned Parenthood Advocates Southeast, calls the proposal unconstitutional, saying the U.S. Supreme Court won’t allow bans before a fetus can live outside the womb.

“You can’t restrict access pre-viability,” Brown-Williams said.

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[State abortion clinic owner Diane] Derzis said she thinks Mississippi intends a U.S. Supreme Court test case.

“I think the bill is clearly unconstitutional,” she said. “I think that’s part of the plan, to get as much anti-abortion legislation headed up through the court system, hoping by the time it gets there, there’s another anti-choice justice.”

At this point, it is unclear if such a bill would withstand a court challenge. President Donald Trump promised to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court, and pro-life advocates praised his choice of Neil Gorsuch; however, there still is a majority of judges on the high court who do not think unborn babies deserve a right to life.

Several years ago, North Dakota and Arkansas passed bills to prohibit abortions after an unborn baby has a detectable heartbeat (about six weeks), but federal courts struck down both laws.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said the following about the bills: “Because there is no genuine dispute that (North Dakota’s law) generally prohibits abortions before viability — as the Supreme Court has defined that concept — and because we are bound by Supreme Court precedent holding that states may not prohibit pre-viability abortions, we must affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the plaintiffs.”

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the cases in 2016.