Mississippi lawmakers on Thursday passed what would be the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, making the procedure illegal in most cases after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The state’s only abortion provider pledged to sue, and the attorney general said he expected a tough legal battle ahead.
Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Legislature appeared not only to expect, but to encourage such challenges in hopes the issue will eventually make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Under the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling establishing a nationwide right to abortion, states were permitted to restrict abortions after viability — the point when the fetus has a reasonable chance of surviving under normal conditions outside the uterus. The ruling offered no legal definition of viability, saying it could range between 24 and 28 weeks into a pregnancy.
The Mississippi measure “seems like a pretty simple bill designed to test the viability line that the Supreme Court has drawn,” said David Forte, a law professor at Ohio’s Cleveland State University.
The House voted 75-34 in favor of the bill, and Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said again Thursday that he would sign it. The Senate passed the measure on Tuesday.
“We are protecting more women, we are protecting more children, by moving from 20 to 15 weeks,” said House Judiciary B Committee Chairman Andy Gipson, a Braxton Republican. “By 15 weeks, you have a child in the womb who has a heartbeat, who for all practical purposes has taken on the form a person,” Gipson said.
Abortion-rights-groups immediately spoke out against the bill, saying it is not legally or medically sound.