Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton led an effort by 18 states Thursday to support a Mississippi law that protects nearly fully developed unborn babies from abortions.
Paxton filed a friend-of-the-court brief to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing in favor of the law, which prohibits non-emergency abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Seventeen states joined him: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.
“Abortion is not just another routine and victimless procedure,” he said in a statement. “At 15 weeks, the fetus can feel the pain of being ripped apart during an abortion, and later-term abortions are proven to pose a greater risk to women’s health.”
At 15 weeks, the most common abortion method is dismemberment via dilation and evacuation (D&E). The brutal second-trimester procedure uses clamps and other tools to pull the unborn baby apart limb from limb, often while their heart is still beating.
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The Mississippi law, which passed in 2018, is not being enforced because of a pro-abortion legal challenge. A federal judge sided with the abortion industry in late 2018, ruling that the 15-week ban violates women’s constitutional right to abortion.
Now, Mississippi leaders are appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Three out of four Americans agree that abortion should be restricted after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy,” Paxton said. “The Mississippi Legislature enacted this law in accordance with the beliefs of its constituents and the precedents of the United States Supreme Court. It should be upheld.”
If upheld, the law would be the earliest ban on abortion in the U.S. Currently, Mississippi prohibits abortions after 20 weeks.
According to state health data, about 200 abortions a year are performed on unborn babies who are between 15 and 20 weeks.
At 15 weeks, unborn babies are nearly fully formed. Their major organs, fingers, toes, eyes, ears, taste buds and even their own unique fingerprints have developed. By this point in the pregnancy, scientists say unborn babies respond to touch, and research indicates they are capable of feeling pain. Unborn babies at this stage also have been observed yawning, smiling and sucking their thumbs.
Under Roe v. Wade, however, states are prohibited from banning abortions prior to viability. The infamous ruling made the United States one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
It is not clear how the U.S. Supreme Court may rule on such a case. The current justices are considered to be a 5-4 conservative majority, but Chief Justice John Roberts, a Republican appointee, ruled with the liberal justices on a Louisiana abortion law in June.