Mississippi Senate Passes Pro-Life Bill Banning Abortions After 15 Weeks

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 6, 2018   |   3:58PM   |   Jackson, MS

Mississippi state Senators passed the earliest abortion ban in the country Tuesday.

State House Bill 1510 easily passed the Senate in a 35-14 vote, moving Mississippi another step closer to protecting unborn babies from abortion after 15 weeks, according to the Clarion Ledger.

The state Senate amended the bill to remove penalties for abortionists who violate the 15-week ban, the AP reports. Because of the change, the legislation must return to the state House, which passed the bill in February. Gov. Phil Bryant said he will sign it.

The bill would create the earliest ban on abortions in any state in the U.S. by pushing back Mississippi’s current limit by five weeks. It would prohibit abortions after 15 weeks except when there are risks to the life or physical health of the mother, or fatal fetal anomalies.

“The United States Supreme Court … has indicated that the state has a couple of interests when it comes to regulating abortion,” state Sen. Joey Fillingane told Mississippi Today last week. “One is protecting the health and life of the mother. Another is protecting the potentiality of human life.”

Pro-abortion lawmakers criticized the bill for not including exceptions for victims of rape and incest. In the Senate Tuesday, they proposed an amendment to allow abortions after 15 weeks in such cases, but the amendment failed, according to the local news.

State records indicate about 200 unborn babies between 15 and 20 weeks are aborted every year in Mississippi.

Owners of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion clinic in the state, said they do abortions up to 18 weeks. The abortion center said it will consider a legal challenge if the bill passes.

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Pro-life lawmakers expressed hope that the legislation could withstand a court challenge. Fillingane pointed to modern medical advancements that have pushed back the point of viability. He said the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that states have an interest in protecting unborn babies once they are viable.

“Assuming this bill were to become law, these challenges take two to three years to make their way up to the Supreme Court,” Fillingane said last week. “Who knows how far down the road technology would find us?”

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 U.S. Supreme Court, and pro-life advocates praised his choice of Neil Gorsuch; however, a majority of judges on the high court 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.