Signed by the Governor: Mississippi Law Bans Abortion After 15 Weeks, Defying Supreme Court Precedent

JACKSON, Miss. (March 19, 2018) – Today, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill into law prohibiting most abortions after 15 weeks, defying a Supreme Court opinion barring states from regulating abortions before 24 weeks.

Rep. Becky Currie (R-Brookhaven) sponsored House Bill 1510 (HB1510). The new law prohibits doctors from performing abortions after a probable gestational age of 15 weeks except in a medical emergency or in the case of severe fetal abnormality. Gestational age is calculated from the first day of the mother’s last menstrual period.

Under the proposed law, any physician knowingly performing an abortion after 15 weeks would be subject to losing their medical license. Doctors would be required to ascertain the probable gestational age before performing an abortion.

The House passed HB1510 on Feb. 2 by a 79-31 vote. On March 6, the Senate approved an amended version of the legislation by a 35-14 vote. The House concurred with the Senate amendments sending the bill to Bryant’s desk. With his signature, the law went into immediate effect.

Twenty states have banned abortions at 20 weeks or later. HB1510 pushes the limits further. With the governor’s signature, Mississippi becomes the first state to impose an abortion ban earlier than 20 weeks.

Ohio Right to Life President Michael Gonidakis supports the 20-week threshold.

“The 20-week ban was nationally designed to be the vehicle to end abortion in America. It challenges the current national abortion standard and properly moves the legal needle from viability to the baby’s ability to feel pain,” he told the Columbus Dispatch.

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the Supreme reaffirmed the opinion in Roe v. Wade that a woman has an absolute right to an abortion until fetal viability while rejecting a trimester structure the court initially used to determine when states could regulate abortion. Current Supreme Court precedent prohibits states from regulating abortion before 24 weeks.

The new Mississippi law effectively nullifies the SCOTUS criteria should the state hold the line in the face of future opposition.

“Mississippi politicians’ flagrant assault on reproductive rights will not go unchallenged,” said Lourdes Rivera, senior vice president of US programs at the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a written statement announcing a legal challenge to the new Mississippi law. “This bill is dangerous and unconstitutional. The Center is prepared to answer any attempt to undermine 40 years of Supreme Court precedent with the full force of the law.”

The opinion of Supreme Court judges notwithstanding, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to regulate abortions. This clearly falls within the objects James Madison said would remain with the state governments – “objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people.”

But in Roe v. Wade, the SCOTUS created a constitutional “right to privacy” out of thin air and enforced it on state governments through the “due process” clause of the 14th Amendment. Justice Byron White captured the absurdity of the ruling in a blistering dissent.

“I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court’s judgment. The Court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant mothers and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invests that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes.”

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