Mississippi Legislature Passes Bill to Ban Abortions When Unborn Baby’s Heart Starts Beating

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 19, 2019   |   5:48PM   |   Jackson, MS

The Mississippi legislature sent a bill to Gov. Phil Bryant’s desk Tuesday that would ban abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable.

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. Abortionists who violate the legislation could face criminal charges.

On Tuesday, the state Senate approved a final version of the bill after the state House made amendments to it earlier this month, the Clarion Ledger reports.

Bryant, a pro-life Republican, said he will sign the bill, NBC News 10 reports.

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

State Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves also supports the legislation.

“A beating heart clearly means life has begun and should be protected. I appreciate the work of both senators and representatives for getting this legislation to Gov. Bryant’s desk,” Reeves said Tuesday in a statement.

Several opponents pointed to a court decision that blocked Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban in 2018, but supporters argued that the heartbeat bill could be successful now that there is a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court “may swing in a very different direction now,” said state Sen. Joey Fillingane, sponsor of the bill, last month.

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Heartbeat bills also have been introduced in Florida, Georgia, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas this year.

Some pro-lifers have renewed hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold an abortion ban and overturn Roe v. Wade. Others, however, are hesitant because of concerns about losing the court battle and being forced to reimburse pro-abortion groups for their legal fees.

On Friday, a federal judge blocked Kentucky’s new heartbeat bill. In January, a judge also declared Iowa’s heartbeat law unconstitutional. North Dakota and Arkansas passed heartbeat bills several years ago, but federal courts struck down their laws as well.

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.”

There is more hope that the U.S. Supreme Court may consider an abortion ban, but it is difficult to say if it would for certain – especially after Chief Justice John Roberts recently sided with the liberal justices on an abortion case.