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Judge notes 'sad irony' of men deciding abortion rights as he strikes Mississippi's abortion law

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked a Mississippi state law that sought to forbid most abortions after 15 wee...

Posted: Nov 21, 2018 5:07 PM
Updated: Nov 21, 2018 5:07 PM

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked a Mississippi state law that sought to forbid most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, writing a sharply worded opinion with implications for states weighing similar measures.

Gov. Phil Bryant signed H.B. 1510, also known as the Gestational Age Act, in March, pledging his "commitment to making Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child."

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The law made exceptions only for medical emergencies or cases in which there's a "severe fetal abnormality." There were no exceptions for incidents of rape or incest.

The next day, the sole facility providing abortion services in Mississippi sued to prevent the law from taking effect, setting off months of legal challenges culminating in Tuesday's ruling.

US District Judge Carlton Reeves of Mississippi's Southern District, who was appointed by President Obama, wrote that the law "unequivocally" infringes upon a woman's 14th Amendment due process rights and defies Supreme Court precedents.

Citing evidence that viability begins at between 23 and 24 weeks, Reeves wrote that "there is no legitimate state interest strong enough, prior to viability, to justify a ban on abortions."

"The state chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to endorse a decadeslong campaign, fueled by national interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade," Reeves wrote. "This court follows the commands of the Supreme Court and the dictates of the United States Constitution, rather than the disingenuous calculations of the Mississippi Legislature."

Furthermore, he called the Legislature's professed interest in women's health "pure gaslighting," pointing to evidence of the state's high infant and maternal mortality rates.

"Its leaders are proud to challenge Roe but choose not to lift a finger to address the tragedies lurking on the other side of the delivery room, such as high infant and maternal mortality rates," he wrote in a footnote.

"No, legislation like H.B. 1510 is closer to the old Mississippi -- the Mississippi bent on controlling women and minorities."

The governor's office did not reply to a request for comment. Proponents of the bill previously said the law would do what's best for women.

"Beyond the obvious debate of trying to save the lives of innocent babies, there is the often less discussed issues that relate to the health of the mother who receives an abortion," Mississippi State Rep. Dan Eubanks said in March after Bryant signed the bill into law.

"When did looking out for the life, health and overall well-being of a child or its mother start getting labeled as extreme in this country?"

Critics of the law called it one in a string of efforts to diminish access to abortions in an already restrictive state.

Mississippi is the only state in the country that requires physicians who perform abortions to be board-certified or board-eligible obstetrician-gynecologists. It also requires in-person counseling and a 24-hour waiting period before receiving an abortion, which means women must make repeat trips to the facility, a fact that's especially burdensome for those living outside Jackson.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which sued on behalf of Jackson Women's Health Organization, said the opinion reaffirms other courts' decisions that struck similar bans on abortions before viability.

"Our victory today means that women in Mississippi will maintain the ability to make their own decisions about whether and when to terminate a pregnancy," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Reeves noted that Mississippi already has a trigger law that will ban abortions in the event Roe v. Wade is overturned. Until then, he said Roe is the controlling law in the United States and expressed frustration that the Legislature passed 1510 knowing that it could face legal challenges at taxpayers' expense.

He also noted what he called the "sad irony" of men like him deciding women's reproductive rights, recalling what the lawyer for Jane Roe argued to the Supreme Court in 1971: "A pregnancy to a woman is perhaps one of the most determinative aspects of her life."

"The fact that men, myself included, are determining how women may choose to manage their reproductive health is a sad irony not lost on the court," he 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."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 35419

Reported Deaths: 1230
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds290851
DeSoto190019
Madison144638
Jones120349
Harrison113616
Rankin108715
Neshoba104577
Forrest99343
Lauderdale96381
Scott81915
Jackson77519
Washington72213
Copiah65315
Leake63520
Lee61222
Oktibbeha61128
Grenada5949
Warren59421
Holmes58641
Wayne56218
Yazoo5536
Lowndes54813
Lamar5347
Leflore53156
Lincoln52935
Pike49920
Lafayette4974
Sunflower4778
Monroe45635
Panola4486
Covington4355
Bolivar40518
Simpson3933
Attala38424
Newton37510
Tate35213
Adams35120
Pontotoc3466
Marion32712
Claiborne30111
Chickasaw29719
Winston29511
Pearl River28832
Noxubee2788
Jasper2776
Marshall2773
Walthall2627
Clay25811
Union25211
Smith24612
Clarke22325
Coahoma2226
Lawrence2092
Yalobusha2079
Tallahatchie1954
Kemper18414
Carroll18111
Montgomery1713
Calhoun1645
Humphreys16310
Itawamba1468
Tippah14511
Hancock14413
Webster13411
Jefferson1263
Tunica1233
Jefferson Davis1204
Prentiss1204
George1163
Greene11310
Amite1103
Alcorn1002
Quitman991
Wilkinson989
Tishomingo971
Perry874
Choctaw754
Stone742
Franklin542
Sharkey480
Benton460
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6433170
Mobile4753139
Montgomery4430112
Tuscaloosa263253
Madison21199
Marshall192611
Shelby164225
Lee157237
Morgan12695
Baldwin120711
Walker106131
Elmore102920
Dallas9969
Etowah95114
DeKalb9417
Franklin93216
Autauga67614
Russell6750
Chambers67427
Unassigned65328
Butler65129
Tallapoosa62869
Limestone6223
Houston5857
Cullman5716
Lauderdale5686
St. Clair5133
Colbert4956
Calhoun4905
Lowndes48122
Escambia4808
Pike4725
Coffee4244
Jackson4182
Covington41412
Barbour3942
Dale3911
Talladega3897
Bullock37710
Marengo35211
Hale34823
Chilton3232
Clarke3126
Wilcox3038
Blount2961
Winston2965
Sumter29113
Marion27514
Pickens2696
Randolph2589
Monroe2553
Perry2362
Conecuh2308
Bibb2211
Macon2159
Choctaw21212
Greene1959
Henry1533
Washington1418
Crenshaw1273
Lawrence1250
Cherokee1237
Geneva960
Lamar871
Clay852
Fayette821
Coosa651
Cleburne421
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