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

Alberta reports just seven new COVID-19 cases

‘Today’s numbers mark an occasion to be celebrated’

PHOTOS: Sylvan Lake grads celebrate amidst pandemic

A group of local businesses band together to throw two days worth of celebrations for the graduates

Sylvan Lake RCMP continue to search for missing man

43-year-old Steven Michael Hull is still missing and Sylvan Lake RCMP are seeking public assistance

Poplar Ridge School receives county funding for new playground equipment

Two new gaga ball pits and a resurfaced basketball court will be going in at Poplar Ridge School

Visitor pay parking returns to Sylvan Lake

Visitor pay parking areas in the downtown and lakeshore areas is once again in effect

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Sylvan Lake News is firmly committed to seeing you through the changes ahead, but we need your help

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Sylvan Lake News is firmly committed to seeing you through the changes ahead, but we need your help

Minister says reckoning on police violence against Indigenous people needed

Minister says reckoning on police violence against Indigenous people needed

Nunavut to bring in civilian police review after arrest video: minister

Nunavut to bring in civilian police review after arrest video: minister

Trudeau takes a knee at anti-racism protest on Parliament Hill

Trudeau takes a knee at anti-racism protest on Parliament Hill

Liberal MP Marwan Tabbara faces assault, break and enter, harassment charges

Liberal MP Marwan Tabbara faces assault, break and enter, harassment charges

Black Canadians say racism here is just as harmful as in the United States

Black Canadians say racism here is just as harmful as in the United States

Implementation of Divorce Act reforms delayed eight months by pandemic

Implementation of Divorce Act reforms delayed eight months by pandemic

Canada’s James Hinchcliffe ready for Genesys 300 as IndyCar takes the stage

Canada’s James Hinchcliffe ready for Genesys 300 as IndyCar takes the stage

Most Read