Reproductive Rights

Federal Judge Ruled Mississippi 15-Week Abortion Ban Unconstitutional

On Tuesday, a federal judge in Mississippi permanently blocked the state’s 15-week abortion ban, calling it unconstitutional. The Mississippi Gestational Age Act, or HB 1510, bans abortion procedures after 15 weeks of gestation. Further, doctors who violate the ban would have their licenses revoked or suspended.

The law was signed in March by Republican Governor Phil Bryant who claimed to commit to making Mississippi the “safest place in America for an unborn child.” A court quickly placed temporary blocks on the ban after it was signed. Mississippi argued that the law was a regulation because it included exceptions in the case of medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormality and did not place “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose.

In his ruling on Tuesday, District Judge Carlton W. Reeves wrote “this act is a ban, not a regulation.” Judge Reeves also emphasized that the state’s courts will follow the commands of the Supreme Court, which does not allow states to ban abortions prior to viability. The 15-week mark falls before the medical consensus over when a fetus becomes viable outside the womb, which often begins after 23 or 24 weeks, making a 15-week abortion ban unconstitutional. Moreover, Judge Reeves wrote about the “sad irony” of putting men in charge of deciding women’s reproductive health decisions. Judge Reeves wrote, “as a man, who cannot get pregnant or seek an abortion, I can only imagine the anxiety and turmoil a woman might experience when she decides whether to terminate her pregnancy through an abortion. Respecting her autonomy demands that this statute be enjoined.”

In response to the judge’s ruling, Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights said that “today’s decision should be a wake-up call for state lawmakers who are continuously trying to chip away at abortion access. Such bans will not stand in a court of law.”

The Supreme Court has rejected various restrictive abortion laws across the country, including North Dakota’s aim to ban abortion at six weeks and Arkansas’s law that banned abortion at 12 weeks.


Media Resources: NPR 11/21/18; Buzzfeed News 11/20/18; Feminist Newswire 3/23/18

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