Mississippi appeal seeks to revive 15-week abortion ban
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi is trying to revive one the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation.
The state’s Democratic attorney general, Jim Hood, filed a notice of appeal Monday in support of a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks.
The law was signed in March by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, and the state’s only abortion clinic immediately sued the state. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves issued a temporary injunction the next day to prevent the state from enforcing the law. Then he issued a more extensive ruling Nov. 20, finding that the law “unequivocally” violates women’s constitutional rights.
Hood will ask the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Reeves’ decision about the constitutionality of the law. Hood has said other federal circuits have reviewed laws banning abortion at 15 to 20 weeks, but the 5th U.S. Circuit hasn’t yet reviewed such a case.
Supporters and opponents of the law will file detailed arguments later to the 5th Circuit, which handles cases from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, and is considered one of the most conservative federal appeals courts.
Beth Orlansky, an attorney for the Mississippi Center for Justice, said in a statement Monday that the 15-week ban could hurt low-income women who can’t afford to travel to another state for an abortion.
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said: “Mississippi is knowingly violating women’s constitutional rights in a shameless attempt to eradicate abortion access in the state. The district court resoundingly rejected this ban as a clear violation of Roe v. Wade and the appeals court should do the same.”
The only abortion clinic in Mississippi says it provides abortions until 16 weeks.
The Mississippi law and the responding lawsuit set up a confrontation sought by abortion opponents, who are hoping federal courts will ultimately prohibit abortions before a fetus is viable outside the womb, the dividing line that the U.S. Supreme Court set in its 1973 ruling saying that women have the right to terminate pregnancies.
In his Nov. 20 decision, Reeves cited Supreme Court rulings and wrote that states may not ban abortions before viability. He wrote that viability must be determined by trained medical professionals, and the “established medical consensus” is that viability typically begins at 23 to 24 weeks after the pregnant woman’s last menstrual period.
The Mississippi law would allow exceptions to the 15-week ban in cases of medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality. Doctors found in violation of the ban would face mandatory suspension or revocation of their medical license.
Because of Reeves’ ruling on the Mississippi law, a similar law in Louisiana is on hold. The 15-week abortion ban signed by Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards earlier this year contains language saying the law will take effect only if a federal court upholds the law in Mississippi.
An Iowa law, also challenged in court, bans most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.