/Mississippi’s only abortion clinic sues state over new 15-week ban

Mississippi’s only abortion clinic sues state over new 15-week ban

The law prohibits abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. It went into effect immediately following Gov. Phil Bryant signed the law on Monday. Victims of rape and incest are not eligible for any exceptions. The Jackson Women’s Health Clinic filed their lawsuit in just minutes. This set the stage for a constitutional challenge of the long-held rule that abortion can’t be outlawed until a fetus becomes viable outside the womb. “All women should have access to legal and safe abortion care regardless of their zip code. Mississippi politicians have demonstrated once more that they will do anything to deny women this fundamental rights, targeting the last remaining clinic in the state in defiance the U.S Supreme Court and decades worth of settled precedent,” Nancy Northup, president, CEO, Center for Reproductive Rights, said. Northup represents the Women’s Health Clinic. Northup stated that politicians are not above the law and that they are confident that this potentially dangerous bill will be rejected like all similar attempts before it. Bryant stated that House Bill 1510, approved by the Legislature earlier in the month, reduces Mississippi’s current 20 week ban and makes no substantive changes. This means that Mississippi’s legal window for abortion is now five weeks shorter than any other state in the country. Bryant posted Monday that he was proud to sign House Bill 15.10. “I am committed making Mississippi the safest state in America for unborn children, and this bill will help me achieve that goal,” Bryant said Monday in a Facebook post. There has been no other state that has successfully prohibited abortions prior to 20 weeks gestation. This is generally the earliest point of viability for a foetus. In Supreme Court cases before, constitutionality hinged on two factors: whether the fetus can be viable and whether restrictions on abortion prior to that point of viability are an “undue burden” for the woman seeking an abortion. The courts have overturned laws that they deem to be an undue burden. The Supreme Court has stated that a woman can end a pregnancy before it is viable. This ban is effective well in excess of a month after the fetus becomes viable. The Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that it is impossible to do so,” Julie Rikelman (legal counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights) said. Jameson Taylor, interim Director of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy (the conservative think tank that wrote the bill), says that case law that relies upon viability to decide whether abortion should or not be legalized is outdated, particularly when a woman’s physical health is at stake. Taylor cited Gonzales v. Carhart as a case that prohibited a particular type of abortion. Taylor stated that viability was not the same “penultimate standard” that it was many decades ago. The court in that case upheld a federal ban against “partial birth” abortion, even though the fetus was still viable. It said that plaintiffs had not proven that the procedure was necessary to a woman’s health. However, the ban was limited to one type of abortion and not on the actual procedure. It is important that the regulation is rationally sound. Taylor stated that this is exactly what the courts will look at. Taylor said, “To what extent does it protect the health and life of the mother?” Taylor stated that there are very few abortions after the first three months. This is a small amount and a relatively minor burden. Andy Gipson (R-Braxton) presented the bill to the Mississippi House of Representatives. He cited statistics from Guttmacher Institute. This group advocates for women’s rights to abortion and argues that after 18 weeks, the risks for mother health increase significantly. The institute estimates that the risk of death increases from 0.3 deaths for every 100,000 abortions performed within eight weeks to 6.7 deaths for every 100,000 abortions after 18 weeks. The National Academy of Sciences, a nonprofit organization, released Friday a report describing abortions done with medicine or in doctor’s offices as “safe and effective”. Abortion rights advocates argue that a blanket ban on abortion access for weeks before the point of viability causes more harm than good. “If Gov. Bryant would care about the well-being and health of Mississippi families and women, and he would work to expand access to care, not take it away,” Felicia Williams, Mississippi state director for Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates said in a statement. “This law was not written by doctors, but politicians. (House Bill 1510) is the latest attack on women and access to legal abortion. Attorney General Jim Hood suggested that the costs of defending the new legislation before a court might not be worth it. Hood stated that “we know that bans below twenty weeks have been repealed.” Hood stated that they expect an expensive and immediate legal challenge. But, state officials who supported the law have not yet responded to the threat of a lawsuit, and instead appear eager to defend the law in court. Outside the office of the governor, Philip Gunn (R-Clinton), said that “we are willing to shoulder the costs because it’s impossible to put a value onto human life.” It is possible that the Mississippi law will not be the only one to go before the courts. A bill to ban abortions at 15 weeks was introduced by a Louisiana state representative late last month. This ban on abortion at 15 weeks is not just a targeted attack against the women of Mississippi. It also threatens women’s access to healthcare and rights across the country. Brown-Williams stated in a statement that a similar bill was already introduced in Louisiana. If HB 1510 is passed, it could be a model for similar bans throughout the United States. Although the language of the Louisiana and Mississippi bills are different, the overall effect is to ban abortion after a woman has reached her 15th week. Evidence also shows that conservative groups in the U.S. are watching Mississippi closely. Jameson Taylor, Mississippi Center for Public Policy, stated that the bill was vetted by the Alliance Defending Freedom in Arizona and other organizations. Bob Trent, a spokesperson of Alliance Defending Freedom, stated that “from time to time lawmakers ask ADF lawyers to review the constitution of proposed legislation. ADF supports the states’ legitimate and important efforts to protect the safety of women, children, and the health of their families. Alliance Defending Freedom was also a key player in defending Mississippi House Bill 1523 (also known as the Protecting Freedom of Conscience From Government Discrimination Act), two years ago. House Bill 1510, also known as the Gestational Age Act was passed through both houses of Congress this session largely on party lines. Sensing the bill’s momentum, Democrats didn’t so much attempt to derail it outright but soften its impact. They unsuccessfully offered amendments that would have allowed free child care and health coverage to women who couldn’t get abortions. They also failed to resist the absence of an exception for women who have been raped or become pregnant by incest. “This bill does not help the mother who is having an unplanned pregnancy. During the House debate, Rep. Adrienne Wooten (D-Jackson) stated that she is not funding social programs that will assist her. What is the body going to do with these children? Wooten posed the question: “Is this body going take this baby into your own home?” While no other states have banned abortion after 20 weeks, many have. Arkansas and South Dakota had passed “heartbeat laws” earlier this decade that banned abortion at 12 and 6 weeks respectively. Both were overturned by appeal courts, who ruled that abortions can be performed until the fetus has become viable (around 23 to 24 weeks). Some of these judges suggested that the Supreme Court reconsider viability in light of medical advancements. The Senate was presented with the bill by Sen. Joey Fillingane (R-Sumrall), who agreed to it. He acknowledged that abortions were legal for decades up until the point of fetal viability. However, he stated that he was confident that medical technology is on the right track to catch up to the law. “Abortion is an area where technology is driving the debate. Religion is also important and drives it. Fillingane stated that technology has “pushed the timeline further and farther (up)”. Terri Herring, an antiabortion advocate, was present at Monday’s bill signing. Herring stated, “This bill is due for its time.” Herring stated that she has been lobbying at the Capitol for anti-abortion legislation since 1986, when the Legislature passed the first parental consent laws. Herring stated that the bill was held up for seven years until it was finally upheld by the courts. Mississippi also passed the first law in the country mandating a 24-hour waiting time for abortions. Herring stated that Mississippi is the first to have done a lot of things in regard to abortion. “We are not ashamed to protect the voiceless.” However, recent legislation has received mixed reviews in the courts. A U.S. District Judge upheld a portion of a 2012 law that required doctors performing abortions to become board certified. Jackson Women’s Health Clinic challenged a different section of the law. It required that freestanding abortion clinics have a relationship to a local hospital. This was all the way up to the U.S Supreme Court. In 2016, the courts overturned that section of the law. The clinic’s owner, Diane Derzis, stated that the 15-week ban was similar to the 2012 law. This is what abortion-rights activists refer to as a TRAP Law, which stands for targeted regulations regarding abortion providers. These laws, Derzis claims, are unconstitutional as they place undue financial burdens on low-income women and their families. These TRAP laws forced women to travel to Jackson twice to get a simple procedure performed. She said that they have to stop working and find gas money. It’s difficult to get by if you’re poor or a woman of color. It affects you.” Make a regular donation to support this work today as we celebrate our Spring Member Drive.