MS bans abortions after 15 weeks, no exception for rape or incest

Yolanda Curtis
March 9, 2018

The nation's toughest abortion bill has passed both houses of the MS legislature. If signed, the bill, called the "Gestational Age Act", would become the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the country.

Hood says he expects a challenge to the bill.

"It seems like a pretty simple bill created to test the viability line that the Supreme Court has drawn", said David Forte, a law professor at Ohio's Cleveland State University. There are two exceptions to the ban that will allow for an abortion after 15 weeks: (1) if the mother's life or "major bodily function" is at risk due to pregnancy or (2) if the fetus had a health issue that would prevent its survival after a full term birth.

The bill makes an exception for cases of fetal abnormality or medical emergency, but an amendment that would have also made exceptions for victims of rape or incest was voted down in the Senate 16-33.

All abortions performed after 15 weeks must be reported to the Mississippi State Department of Health by a physician.


Harsher bans have met similar ends, including a 6-week ban in North Dakota that was struck down by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2015, and a 12-week ban in Arkansas that was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2016.

The likely hope of MS lawmakers is that one of the justices more favorable to abortion rights, such as Anthony Kennedy or Ruth Bader Ginsburg, will have stepped down by the time the state's case reaches the Supreme Court.

On Monday, abortion-rights activists said the bill would ban the most common method of second-trimester abortions and warned its passage would provoke a courtroom challenge.

Abortion-rights-groups immediately spoke out against the bill, saying it is not legally or medically sound. The law would take effect immediately, making MS the state with the most restrictive abortion law measured in weeks of pregnancy. The state's only abortion clinic has already promised to bring suit.

Clinic owner Diane Derzis told the Clarion Ledger that bill means the clinic will have to refer people out of state and that "we will be planning to sue". The Indiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union challenged anti-abortion laws passed in 2013 and 2015 and won, collecting more than $300,000 in legal fees. "We, therefore, urge Governor Bryant to veto this bill".


The likely hope of MS lawmakers is that one of the justices more favourable to abortion rights, such as Anthony Kennedy or Ruth Bader Ginsburg, will have stepped down by the time the state's case reaches the Supreme Court.

It would not the first restriction placed on access to abortion in Mississippi.

"These bills are not a part of the governor's legislative agenda", stated Gov. Holcomb spokesperson Stephanie Wilson, to the Star. MS state Rep. Andy Gipson, a Republican from Braxton, said lawmakers in Texas, Georgia, and "some midwestern states" are exploring the idea.

"I think the court wants to stay out of this for a while", Forte said.


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