Jackson, Mississippi, March 14, 2018
Mississippi lawmakers have passed a bill that could become the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, banning the murder of unborn children after 15 weeks, reports U.S. News.
The Mississippi Senate passed the draft on Tuesday 35-14, and the House voted 75-34 in favor of the bill last Thursday, and Republican Governor Phil Bryant stated the same day that he would sign the bill.
“As I have repeatedly said, I want Mississippi to be the safest place in America for an unborn child. House Bill 1510 will help us achieve that goal,” the governor wrote on March 6 on his Twitter account.
A 2014 Pew Research Center report found that 59% of people surveyed opposed abortion in most or all cases, reports Quartz.
The bill still allows for abortion in cases of extreme danger to the mother or baby, but does not provide exceptions in cases of rape or incest. Currently, the most restrictive abortion ban in the nation stands at 20 weeks, which exists in several states, such as Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Texas, and several others.
“We are protecting more women, we are protecting more children,” said House Judiciary B Committee Chairman Andy Gipson. “By 15 weeks, you have a child in the womb who has a heartbeat, who for all practical purposes has taken on the form of a person.”
Opponents of the law point out that 85% of abortions in Mississippi in 2016 took place before 12 weeks anyways.
Mississippi currently has only one abortion provider, which has pledged to sue should the bill be signed into law. Republic lawmakers seemed to encourage such legal action, hoping the issue will eventually make it to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court legalized murder in the womb in 1973, while allowing states to ban the practice after “viability,” though it offered no definition for the term, saying it could range from 24 to 28 weeks into a pregnancy.
The Mississippi measure “seems like a pretty simple bill designed to test the viability line that the Supreme Court has drawn,” said David Forte, a law professor at Ohio's Cleveland State University.
“We expect that this bill will be challenged in court and it will lose and, in the process, Mississippi will lose thousands upon thousands of taxpayer dollars,” said Katherine Klein of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi.
An appeals court struck down a North Dakota effort to ban abortions after 6 weeks in 2015, and after 12 weeks in Arkansas.