The outgoing Mississippi governor on Saturday promised to ask the United States Supreme Court to uphold Mississippi’s ban on abortion to 15 weeks.
“We will continue our efforts to fight for the unborn children of the United States,” Republican Phil Bryant wrote on Twitter. “Mississippi will continue this mission to the United States Supreme Court. “
The appeal came a day after a federal appeals court ruled that the ban was unconstitutional. But supporters of the Mississippi ban, and those adopted in other states, have been targeting the Supreme Court from the start. They hope the new conservative justices will push the High Court to tackle the challenges of abortion and overturn its Roe v. Wade of 1973 legalizing abortion rights nationwide.
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Mississippi’s ban on 15 weeks pregnant never took effect. It was blocked by U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves in 2018, a decision that New Orleans 5th Circuit deemed correct.
Mississippi’s only abortion clinic sued the state after Bryant signed the law. The clinic said it offered abortions for up to 16 weeks.
the Center for Reproductive Rights, who represented the abortion clinic in its appeal, said the state wastes money trying to defend the abortion ban.
“The Fifth Circuit today recognized the obvious: Mississippi’s abortion ban defies decades of Supreme Court precedent,” Hillary Schneller, a lawyer at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. . “With this decision, Mississippi – and other states trying to put abortion out of reach – should finally get the message.”
However, this message is unlikely to be received in Mississippi, where nearly all Republican lawmakers and even some Democrats have opposed abortion. Mississippi lawmakers returned in 2019 and passed more restrictive law to ban most abortions at around six weeks. The same federal district judge also blocked this, and an ongoing legal battle. As Bryant leaves office in January, he will be replaced by Republican Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves, also an opponent of abortion.
Lawyers representing the state of Mississippi had argued that the 15-week law was a regulation but not a ban, and that states are allowed to regulate abortion.
A central question in the case concerns viability – whether a fetus can survive outside of the woman at 15 weeks. The clinic presented evidence that viability is impossible at 15 weeks, and the appeals court said the state “admitted it had not identified any medical evidence that a fetus would be viable at 15 weeks.” . The justices cited a Supreme Court ruling to say Mississippi cannot ban abortion before viability.
“In an unbroken line dating back to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases established (and confirmed and reaffirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability,” wrote Justice Patrick Higginbotham for the court. “States can regulate abortion procedures before viability as long as they do not impose undue burdens on women’s rights, but they cannot prohibit abortions. “
When Reeves ruled in November 2018 that Mississippi law was unconstitutional, he wrote that the “established medical consensus” is that viability typically begins 23 to 24 weeks after a pregnant woman’s last menstrual period.
Mississippi law would allow exceptions to the 15-week ban in the event of a medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality. Doctors found in violation of the ban would face a mandatory suspension or revocation of their medical license.
Reeves’ ruling on Mississippi law suspended a similar law in Louisiana. The 15-week abortion ban signed by Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards in 2018 included a provision that the law would only take effect if a federal court upholds Mississippi’s 15-week ban.