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'Here we go again': Judge blocks Mississippi abortion ban

MGN Online

A federal judge on Friday temporarily blocked a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, at about six weeks of pregnancy.

Posted: May 24, 2019 5:15 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A federal judge on Friday temporarily blocked a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, at about six weeks of pregnancy.

"Here we go again," U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves wrote in his order. "Mississippi has passed another law banning abortions prior to viability."

His new order stops the law from taking effect July 1. Reeves is the same judge who struck down a 2018 Mississippi law to ban abortion at 15 weeks.

Mississippi is one of several states that have pushed this year to enact bans on early abortions. Opponents of abortion are emboldened by new conservative Supreme Court justices and are looking for ways to challenge the court's 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Reeves heard arguments Tuesday from attorneys for the state's only abortion clinic, who said the law would effectively eliminate all abortions in Mississippi because cardiac activity is often first detectable when many women may not know they are pregnant. Lawyers with the state attorney general's office said the law should be allowed to take effect because it is not a complete ban on abortion but is, rather, a limit on when the procedure could be done.

Alabama's Republican governor recently signed a law to ban most abortions. Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Ohio have enacted or neared approval of measures barring abortion once there's a detectable fetal heartbeat. Missouri lawmakers approved an eight-week ban. All of those laws are expected to face legal challenges, and the Kentucky one was temporarily blocked by a federal judge in March.

Reeves ruled last year that Mississippi's 15-week ban is unconstitutional because it would prohibit access to abortion before a fetus could survive outside the pregnant woman's body. Viability is generally considered to be about 23 or 24 weeks.

In an indication of which way he is leaning on the request to block the new law with the earlier ban, Reeves asked attorneys Tuesday: "Doesn't it boil down to: Six is less than 15?"

Also during the hearing, Reeves criticized Mississippi lawmakers for passing an earlier ban after he struck down the one at 15 weeks.

"It sure smacks of defiance to this court," he said.

Reeves will hear arguments later about the question of whether the six-week ban is constitutional. He wrote Friday that the new law "prevents a woman's free choice, which is central to personal dignity and autonomy. This injury outweighs any interest the State might have in banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat."

The state is appealing Reeves' ruling on the 15-week ban, and Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed the new law in March. The state's only abortion clinic, Jackson Women's Health Organization, quickly sued the state.

On the day of the bill signing, Bryant said he was not worried about the guarantee that abortion rights groups would sue the state.

"If they do not believe in the sanctity of life, these that are in organizations like Planned Parenthood, we will have to fight that fight," Bryant said. "But it is worth it."

The Mississippi law says physicians who perform abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected could face revocation of their state medical licenses. It also says abortions could be allowed after a fetal heartbeat is found if a pregnancy endangers a woman's life or one of her major bodily functions. Senators rejected an amendment that would have allowed exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 320174

Reported Deaths: 7390
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22294271
Hinds20755424
Harrison18450317
Rankin13923282
Jackson13733249
Madison10273225
Lee10063176
Jones8473167
Forrest7837153
Lauderdale7263242
Lowndes6523150
Lamar636288
Lafayette6314121
Washington5427138
Bolivar4841133
Panola4671110
Oktibbeha466398
Pearl River4606148
Marshall4574105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425973
Monroe4162136
Union415877
Neshoba4065180
Lincoln4009113
Hancock387687
Leflore3516125
Tate342586
Sunflower339491
Pike3373111
Alcorn327474
Scott320374
Yazoo314571
Adams308486
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma299084
Simpson298689
Tippah292268
Prentiss284261
Leake272374
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264842
Grenada264087
George252451
Newton249064
Tishomingo232369
Winston230282
Jasper222148
Attala215173
Chickasaw210659
Holmes190574
Stone188733
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174232
Yalobusha167940
Smith164134
Walthall135447
Greene131834
Lawrence131224
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127538
Amite126342
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108334
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96729
Franklin85023
Quitman82316
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66328
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 549013

Reported Deaths: 11311
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810461571
Mobile42145831
Madison35718525
Tuscaloosa26179458
Shelby25626254
Montgomery25089614
Baldwin21901314
Lee16287176
Calhoun14724327
Morgan14639285
Etowah14183364
Marshall12454230
Houston10791287
Elmore10301214
Limestone10188157
St. Clair10161251
Cullman9958201
Lauderdale9612250
DeKalb8977190
Talladega8462184
Walker7341280
Autauga7242113
Jackson6953113
Blount6950139
Colbert6415140
Coffee5638127
Dale4930116
Russell454941
Chilton4478116
Franklin431782
Covington4279122
Tallapoosa4144155
Escambia401880
Chambers3728124
Dallas3610158
Clarke353161
Marion3245107
Pike314578
Lawrence3134100
Winston283572
Bibb268564
Geneva258481
Marengo250665
Pickens237062
Barbour234559
Hale227178
Butler224671
Fayette218962
Henry194443
Randolph187644
Cherokee187345
Monroe180641
Washington170739
Macon163051
Clay160159
Crenshaw156357
Cleburne153644
Lamar146937
Lowndes142254
Wilcox126930
Bullock124542
Conecuh113630
Coosa111629
Perry108626
Sumter105832
Greene93634
Choctaw62125
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