Mississippi Senate Passes Bill to Ban Abortions When Unborn Baby’s Heartbeat Begins

State   |   Steven Ertelt, Micaiah Bilger   |   Feb 13, 2019   |   6:26PM   |   Jackson, MS

A Mississippi bill to protect unborn babies once they have a detectable heartbeat moved Wednesday in the state Senate, when the chamber gave it its approval.

If enacted, the bill would ban almost all abortions in the state. An unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable at about six weeks of pregnancy, though research suggests a baby’s heartbeat may begin as early as 18 days after conception. The bill would allow exceptions for medical emergencies.

State Sens. Angela Hill, R-Picayune, and Chris Caughman, R-Mendenhall, are the sponsors in the Senate. A House version of the bill, state House Bill 529, is sponsored by state Rep. Robert Foster.

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Gov. Phil Bryant has said he would sign a bill banning abortion as early as six weeks.

“It’s time to pass a Heart Beat Bill in Mississippi and stop this madness about when life begins,” Bryant tweeted in January.

Mississippi only has one abortion clinic in the state.

Sen. Angela Hill, R-Picayune, one of the bill’s authors, spoke shortly before a final vote. At times, she choked up.

“Times are changing in this country,” Hill said. “We can see more of what’s happening in the womb… We can see that heart beating with those test and I’ve had those tests and they’re not so bad.”

Hill talked about hearing the fetal heartbeat of her own children.

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“I see in this country that we protect sea turtle eggs and we protect other endangered species of animals with a greater degree of scrutiny and zealousness than we protect a child in the womb that has a beating heart,” Hill said. “The womb should be the safest place in the world for an unborn child. I’m asking Mississippi to be different”

Pro-life lawmakers have introduced a number of heartbeat bills this winter, hoping for a victory with the new conservative U.S. Supreme Court. Bills are being considered in Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he would support a heartbeat bill in his state as well.

The bills almost certainly will face legal challenges if they become law. Earlier this month, a judge declared Iowa’s heartbeat law unconstitutional.

The goal of the legislation is to prevent the deaths of thousands of unborn babies every year. However, even some pro-life advocates admit that the success of the legislation is uncertain. North Dakota and Arkansas passed heartbeat bills several years ago, but federal courts struck down both laws.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said the following about its ruling on the six-week abortion ban: “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.”

When courts rule against such laws, state taxpayers often are forced to reimburse pro-abortion groups for their legal fees.

There is more hope that the new conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court may consider an abortion ban, but it is difficult to say if it would for certain. Some legal scholars have speculated that the high court would be more likely to consider cases that gradually chip away at Roe v. Wade rather than reverse it completely.