Analysis: Ex-lawmaker argues for Mississippi abortion limits

Andy Gipson serves as Mississippi’s eighth Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce. | Source: Mississippi House of Representatives

Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold abortion restrictions that he helped put into state law.

Posted: Oct 18, 2021 9:18 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold abortion restrictions that he helped put into state law.

Gipson is a Republican and was a state representative and chairman of the House Judiciary B Committee in 2018 when he co-sponsored a bill to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Supreme Court's ruling in a court fight over that law could reshape abortion access across the United States.

The Mississippi law has never been enforced because the state's only abortion clinic quickly sued, and a federal judge ruled that the 15-week limit was unconstitutional.

A conservative federal appeals court said in 2019 that the judge had ruled correctly, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed this year to consider the case. Arguments are scheduled for Dec. 1.

The Mississippi case and a more recently developed fight over a Texas law that would ban most abortions at around six weeks are first big abortion-rights tests in a Supreme Court reshaped with three conservative justices nominated by former President Donald Trump.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch has filed written arguments asking the justices to use the Mississippi case to overturn Roe v. Wade, the high court's 1973 ruling that legalized abortion rights nationwide.

Hundreds of people and groups have filed briefs before the Supreme Court to argue for or against the Mississippi law. Gipson, who is also a Baptist minister, filed a brief July 29 arguing that Mississippi law does not impose an undue burden.

"For women who choose to continue their pregnancies, Mississippi offers a number of resources to support them through birth and throughout the child-rearing years," Gipson's attorneys wrote.

His attorneys wrote that Mississippi provides family planning services, prenatal healthcare, nutrition programs, daycare and education. They also wrote that the state facilitates foster care and adoption programs.

“In short, Mississippi strives to assist any woman who needs resources to care for a child, whether born or unborn,” Gipson's attorneys wrote.

In a news release Wednesday, the acting president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Adrienne Kimmell, called on Congress to enact a federal law to protect abortion rights. She criticized Mississippi for asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“With a supermajority on the Supreme Court openly hostile to reproductive freedom, we are at a moment of crisis — and the future of legal abortion hangs in the balance,” Kimmell said. "No matter the spin the Court’s anti-choice justices may use to avoid laying bare their extremist agenda, the reality is that upholding Mississippi’s ban on abortion would overturn Roe v. Wade."

Mississippi's only abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, remains open and offers abortions up to 16 weeks of pregnancy. Clinic director Shannon Brewer has said about 10% of its abortions there are done after the 15th week.

More than 90% of abortions in the U.S. take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fitch was elected Mississippi attorney general in 2019 and took office in 2020. In addition to challenging Roe v. Wade, her written arguments to the Supreme Court challenge the court's 1992 decision in a Pennsylvania abortion case. Both rulings said states may not put an undue burden on abortion before viability. The Mississippi attorney general's office argues that the rulings are “egregiously wrong.”

Viability occurs roughly at 24 weeks, the point at which babies are more likely to survive outside the womb. The Mississippi clinic has presented evidence that viability is impossible at 15 weeks.

The Mississippi attorney general argues that viability is an arbitrary standard that doesn’t take sufficient account of the state’s interest in regulating abortion.

The Mississippi law would allow exceptions to the 15-week ban in cases of medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality. Doctors found in violation of the ban would face mandatory suspension or revocation of their medical license.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 844594

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1160612006
Mobile741651379
Madison53255732
Shelby38313368
Baldwin38061589
Tuscaloosa35996641
Montgomery34473781
Lee25541263
Calhoun22582518
Morgan22441406
Etowah20009517
Marshall18771316
Houston17723425
St. Clair16863358
Limestone16123218
Cullman16032303
Elmore15902294
Lauderdale14945306
Talladega14186299
DeKalb12957269
Walker12011380
Blount10700192
Autauga10512157
Jackson10151194
Coffee9412192
Colbert9325208
Dale9013191
Tallapoosa7248201
Russell707465
Chilton7015170
Escambia6951143
Covington6926195
Franklin6337108
Chambers5778142
Marion5400130
Dallas5283209
Pike5114109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4777110
Geneva4640136
Bibb434094
Barbour369180
Butler3433100
Marengo342393
Monroe336666
Randolph334067
Pickens333188
Fayette329885
Henry320566
Hale317989
Cherokee316963
Crenshaw260477
Washington256952
Cleburne254360
Lamar251253
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192762
Coosa184647
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139041
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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