A bill outlawing abortion after 15 weeks of gestation has passed in the Mississippi Senate and House and is now waiting on a signature from Republican Gov. Phil Bryant. If signed, the bill, called the “Gestational Age Act,” would become the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the country.
HB 1510 was introduced in the Mississippi Senate January and authored by Republican Rep. Becky Currie among 15 other lawmakers. It outlaws abortions after 15 weeks, except in the cases of a the pregnancy endangering the life of the woman or a “major bodily function,” or severe fetal abnormality, meaning a life-threatening physical condition that would prevent it from surviving outside the uterus to full term.
The accepted range of fetus viability (the ability for the fetus to survive outside the uterus) is between 24 and 28 weeks. The bill goes beyond that, arguing that a fetus is able to survive at 15 weeks. All abortions performed after 15 weeks must be reported to the Mississippi State Department of Health by a physician.
Under the bill, anyone convicted of inducing an abortion after 15 weeks (aside from the woman who received the abortion) may face up to 10 years in prison. Any physician who violates the law may be subject to losing their license to practice in Mississippi, and any physician who files a false report may be fined up to $500. The bill does not make exemptions resulting from rape or incest.
The Senate passed the bill on Tuesday, and the House passed it on Thursday, leaving it up to Gov. Bryant, who has said he’ll sign the bill.
On Wednesday, Jennifer Riley Collins, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, released a statement expressing disappointment in the Senate’s passing of the bill, stating that bill’s signing will lead to an expensive legal battle.
“HB 1510 will seriously harm low-income women, women of color, and young women. This bill will do nothing to make abortion safer or support a woman’s decision-making,” Collins said. “We cannot allow those who want to put abortion completely out of reach to pass another law that stands in the way of women and the care they need. We, therefore, urge Governor Bryant to veto this bill.”
H/T Associated Press
Update 4:40pm CT, March 19: Gov. Bryant signed the 15-week abortion ban into law on Monday. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves tweeted a photo of the signing with the caption, “It’s a great day in Mississippi as we move to make our state the safest place in the nation for an unborn child.”
It’s a great day in Mississippi as we move to make our state the safest place in the nation for an unborn child. I was proud to stand with members of the pro-life community as Gov. @PhilBryantMS signed the ban on abortions after 15 weeks of gestation. pic.twitter.com/xWQNgjyTUn— Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) March 19, 2018
Update 12:30pm CT, March 20: U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves has temporarily blocked the new law, granting a temporary restraining order requested by Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, which has sued the state in response. A doctor for the Jackson Women’s Health Organization has said in court papers that a woman at least 15 weeks pregnant was scheduled for an abortion on Tuesday afternoon, according to the Associated Press.