Mississippi, a state with just one remaining abortion provider, has moved one step closer to effectively banning the procedure in the state. Earlier this week, the state legislature passed a bill, HB 1510, which bans abortion 15 weeks after a person’s last period, making exceptions only in case of “medical emergency and in cases of severe fetal abnormality;” there are no exceptions for rape or incest. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant is expected to sign the bill into law:
Roe v. Wade established a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion until at least until fetal viability, which is considered to be around 24 weeks by physicians. In 2014, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal for a 2012 Arizona law banning abortion at 20 weeks, which was deemed unconstitutional by a federal appeals court panel. Nonetheless, anti-abortion activists who peddle the myth that the fetus can feel pain by 20 weeks have enacted 20-week-abortion bans in 21 states. If signed into law, Mississippi’s 15-week ban would be an egregious addition the trend.
Since anti-abortion Republicans in Mississippi seem to care so much about children that they are effectively adopting a policy of forced birth, Democratic state Sen. Deborah Dawkins, a supporter of reproductive rights, proposed an amendment to the bill to ensure state funded childcare. “If the state of Mississippi is to intercede in family matters and family budgets, it is only fair that we provide the affected children and families with early childhood assistance,” she told the Clarion Ledger. Her proposal failed.
Calling the bill “unconstitutional,” abortion provider and Physicians for Reproductive Health board chair Dr. Willie Parker condemned the vote, saying, correctly, that it was dangerous.
“If HB 1510 were to go into effect, women like Stacey, a patient I saw from the Mississippi Delta region, would lose their right to access safe, legal abortion care. Stacey came to the clinic at 14 weeks gestation with a pregnancy that she could not continue, and she needed two weeks to raise the money for her abortion care,” he said in a press release. “To deny care to patients like Stacey is simply wrong.”
Diane Derzis, the owner of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic, plans to sue the state. “These groups are tossing anything and everything out there, anything that could start winding its way through the legal system because we’re in a very fragile place right now,” she said. “Roe is clearly in danger and that’s what they’re preparing for … They hope by the time they get to the Supreme Court they will have changed the Supreme Court.”
And if liberal Justice Kennedy does, indeed, retire this summer, then Republicans just might get their wish.