Mississippi lawmakers are considering a measure to ban most abortions after 15 weeks, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
The move would challenge the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings that states can’t restrict abortions before a fetus could live outside of the womb on its own.
On Tuesday, House Bill 1510 passed the Mississippi Senate and is a single House vote from being sent to the governor, who has vowed to sign it, the AP reported.
Is there any strong opposition?
Mississippi has only one abortion clinic, and its owner is threatening to sue if the bill becomes law. State officials are anticipating the lawsuit, and don’t necessarily view it as a bad thing.
That’s because the lawsuit could prompt the Supreme Court to revisit its rulings and in turn allow more states to restrict abortions earlier in pregnancy.
“It seems like a pretty simple bill designed to test the viability line that the Supreme Court has drawn,” David Forte, a law professor at Ohio’s Cleveland State University, told the AP.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate rejected a 20-week abortion ban when supporters were unable to get 60 votes to end debate on the bill.
“The Supreme Court has said and re-said again and again that states cannot prohibit women from obtaining abortions prior to viability, which is what a 15-week ban would do,” Hillary Schneller, staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said. The New York-based group advocates for free access to abortion.
Mississippi has a 20-week abortion ban which has never been legally challenged, according to the report. That’s partly because the state’s lone abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, does not perform late-pregnancy abortions.
Diane Derzis, who owns the abortion clinic has said she would sue over the 15-week ban because it would prevent her from offering some abortions.
Supporters of the ban view abortion as immoral and evil, and lawmakers pushing the bill are aiming their arguments against past Supreme Court rulings, AP reported.
“The reason for going to 15 weeks is that obviously, the state has several interests, including the health and well-being of mother,” state Sen. Joey Fillingane, who helped move the bill through the Senate, said. “The state has interest in the potential life of the unborn child, as well.”
Although Fillingane acknowledged that 15 weeks is considered “pre-viability,” he also argued that medical advancements are allowing fetuses to survive earlier and earlier.
University of Chicago Law Professor Geoffrey Stone countered that claim, saying that technology still has not moved the viability window to 15 weeks.
“I’m quite sure it hasn’t gone anywhere near 15 weeks,” Stone said.
Are other sates considering this?
According to Mississippi state Rep. Andy Gipson (R) lawmakers in Texas, Georgia, and “some midwestern states” are considering such a ban. Additionally, a similar bill was reportedly filed for Louisiana’s upcoming legislative session.