The Mississippi Legislature is advancing a bill to ban abortions from being performed based on race, sex, or potential physical disabilities caused by genetic anomalies.
The Republican-led Senate passed the bill Wednesday by a 33-11 margin. The House is expected to send the bill to Republican Governor Tate Reeves later this week.
Senator Joey Fillingane (R-Sumrall) said the legislation is an attempt to ensure that fetuses have the same civil rights as people.
“They should have the same protection in the womb,” Fillingnane said.
Opponents claim that the purpose of the bill is to limit abortion rights and deter people from seeking abortions. The bill would require physicians to ask patients if they were seeking an abortion based on the anticipated race, sex, or genetic anomalies of the fetus. The doctor would be prohibited from performing the abortion if she answered affirmatively and could face a prison sentence of up to 10 years for knowingly violating the ban.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, nine states have bans prohibiting abortions based on sex, two states ban abortion based on race, and two ban abortions in cases of potential genetic anomalies.
Some bans prohibit physicians from performing abortions when they suspect a person is seeking one based on race, sex, or potential disability, even if the person denies this is their motivation. Most require that healthcare professionals report these incidents to law enforcement.
“While nominally aimed at combating discrimination, U.S. bans on sex- and race-selective abortions send the message that women, and especially women of color, cannot be trusted to make their own medical decisions,” writes the Guttmacher Institute in their report. “They place women’s motivations for having an abortion under suspicion, thereby opening the door to discrimination toward and racial profiling of women of color and immigrant women.”
If passed, this bill would mark the third consecutive year that the Mississippi Legislature has passed bills seriously restricting abortion rights. Mississippi’s law banning abortions after 15 weeks, passed in 2018, could be the first of its kind to be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Although federal court rulings have blocked most of these new laws in recent years, the Mississippi Legislature continues to aggressively pursue laws to limit abortion rights.
Laurie Bertram Roberts, co-founder and director of Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund, which helps people pay for abortions, criticized the bill and the authors’ claim that it will advance civil rights protections.
“As a disabled Black mother, I reject the disingenuous invoking of race, gender, and disability while lawmakers refuse to enact policies to create true equity and equality,” said Roberts in a statement Wednesday. “It’s time that Mississippi lawmakers top wasting time and energy on trying to police the reproductive lives of Mississippians.”
Sources: Associated Press 6/18/2020; Mississippi Today 6/18/2020; Biloxi Sun Herald 6/17/2020