Judge: Mississippi 6-week abortion ban ‘smacks of defiance’

The new law would prohibit most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected

A federal judge who struck down Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban last year said during a court hearing Tuesday that the state’s legislators defied his ruling by passing a new law that sets the ban even earlier.

The new law — which is not yet in effect — would prohibit most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, at about six weeks, when many women may not know they’re pregnant.

Mississippi is one of several states enacting abortion restrictions this year in hopes that the U.S. Supreme Court, with new conservative justices, will reevaluate and maybe overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves said Mississippi legislators passed the six-week law this year knowing he had declared the 15-week ban unconstitutional because it prohibited access to abortion before viability, which is generally considered to be about 23 or 24 weeks.

“It sure smacks of defiance to this court,” Reeves said.

READ MORE: Mississippi considers strict abortion ban

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed the new law in March, and the state’s only abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, quickly sued the state.

Reeves heard arguments Tuesday on the clinic’s request that he block the law from taking effect July 1. He said he would decide soon, but did not indicate when he would issue a ruling.

“Doesn’t it boil down to: Six is less than 15?” Reeves asked.

Governors in Kentucky, Ohio and Georgia have signed bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Alabama’s governor signed a measure making abortion a felony in nearly all cases.

The Mississippi law says physicians who perform abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected could face revocation of their state medical licenses. It also says abortions could be allowed after a fetal heartbeat is found if a pregnancy endangers a woman’s life or one of her major bodily functions. Senators rejected an amendment that would have allowed exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

Hillary Schneller, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the Mississippi law is “clearly unconstitutional” because it bans abortion before viability.

If the law were to take effect, “Women will be forced to leave the state to obtain legal abortions … or will be forced to remain pregnant against their will,” Schneller said.

READ MORE: Trudeau says U.S. state abortion bans are ‘backsliding on women’s rights’

Mississippi Special Assistant Attorney General Paul Barnes said the new law is not an outright ban on abortion but a limitation on when the procedure can be done.

“When a fetal heartbeat is detected, our position is it is constitutional” to prohibit abortion, Barnes said. He also said the state respectfully disagrees with Reeves’ ruling on the 15-week ban.

If Reeves temporarily blocks the new Mississippi law, he would hear arguments later on the larger question of constitutionality.

Reeves asked Barnes whether a 10- or 11-year-old girl who is impregnated by rape would have to carry the pregnancy to full term if she waited too long to tell anyone what had happened to her. Barnes said he did not know whether a family court judge would allow the child to have an abortion after the fetal heartbeat is found. Barnes said the man who impregnated the girl could be charged with capital rape.

Reeves said legislators were aware the law did not allow exceptions for rape or incest. Barnes said he did not know if they knew, and Reeves responded: “Well, they speak through their statute.”

____

Emily Wagster Pettus, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rogers celebrates virtual opening of its new Customer Solution Centre in Kelowna

The centre will bring a total of 350 new jobs to the local economy by 2021

Ex-Kelowna city councillor reappointed to ALC

Gerry Zimmermann accepts another two year term to Agricultural Land Commission.

UBCO celebrates 15th year by highlighting alumni artworks

Former fine arts students are to show their work at the Kelowna Art Gallery

Cover up your trash, keep bears out: Regional District of Central Okanagan

There have been several bear sightings in South East Kelowna, West Kelowna and Peachland

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Record-breaking 165 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in B.C. in 24-hour period

Fifty-seven people are in hospital battling the novel coronavirus

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

Interior Health reports four new cases of COVID-19

First hospitalization since mid-August announced

Rail traffic starts moving after 60-car derailment near Hope

Clean up effort ongoing after 60 cars carrying potash crashed along a rail bridge

Spoon-wielding man draws police presence in Penticton

Police say no one was harmed during the incident

B.C.’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan: Top 5 things you need to know

Jobs training, tax incentives for employers to hire staff and more

March to protect old growth, stop industrial logging coming to B.C. Legislature

Organizers say they want to give frontline communities a bigger say in nearby logging

Most Read