Mississippi 15-week abortion ban is blocked by appeals court

A federal appeals court says Mississippi's ban on abortion at 15 weeks is unconstitutional.

Posted: Dec 13, 2019 7:20 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A federal appeals court declared Friday that Mississippi's ban on abortion at 15 weeks is unconstitutional, dealing a blow to those seeking to overturn the landmark Supreme Courtruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled correctly when he blocked the Mississippi law from taking effect in 2018.

With the addition of conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court in recent years, several states have been enacting laws aimed at spurring court challenges that could eventually seek to overturn the court's 1973 abortion rights ruling in Roe v. Wade.

“In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed, and re-affirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability,” the appeals court judges wrote. “States may regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they do not impose an undue burden on the woman’s right but they may not ban abortions."

The only abortion clinic in Mississippi sued the state after Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed the law. The clinic said it provides abortions until 16 weeks.

Mississippi legislators came back in 2019 and passed a more restrictive law to ban most abortions at about six weeks. The same federal district judge blocked that, too, and a legal fight over it continues.

The 5th Circuit based in New Orleans handles cases from Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. It is generally considered one of the most conservative federal appellate courts.

Attorneys representing the state of Mississippi had argued that the 15-week law was a regulation but not a ban, and that states are allowed to regulate abortion.

A central question in the case is about viability — whether a fetus can survive outside the woman at 15 weeks. The clinic presented evidence that viability is impossible at 15 weeks, and the appeals court said that the state “conceded that it had identified no medical evidence that a fetus would be viable at 15 weeks.”

“If the Act is a regulation, then the State’s interests should have been considered,” the appeals court wrote. "Prohibitions on pre-viability abortions, however, are unconstitutional regardless of the State’s interests because ‘a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.’”

The appeals court was quoting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling about the “ultimate decision” to terminate a pregnancy.

When Reeves ruled in November 2018 that the Mississippi law is unconstitutional, he wrote that the "established medical consensus" is that viability typically begins at 23 to 24 weeks after the pregnant woman's last menstrual period.

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.

Reeves' ruling on the Mississippi law put a similar law in Louisiana on hold. The 15-week abortion ban signed by Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2018 included a provision that the law would take effect only if a federal court upholds Mississippi's 15-week ban.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 61125

Reported Deaths: 1711
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5209106
DeSoto328027
Madison228154
Rankin212428
Harrison209832
Jackson192934
Jones176557
Forrest163153
Washington148032
Lauderdale132388
Lee123230
Neshoba119487
Lamar111512
Oktibbeha105235
Lowndes97332
Warren96426
Scott95317
Bolivar93932
Copiah90924
Panola90711
Sunflower90622
Lafayette8699
Holmes84347
Leflore83259
Pike82632
Grenada81220
Yazoo77311
Leake76725
Lincoln74339
Wayne73221
Pontotoc7247
Simpson71126
Monroe69750
Coahoma65910
Tate64523
Marion59918
Adams58025
Covington57811
Winston57115
Marshall5668
George5415
Union51913
Newton51611
Attala49524
Tallahatchie49310
Pearl River48236
Walthall44218
Chickasaw43519
Noxubee41710
Claiborne40013
Smith37713
Jasper3758
Calhoun3748
Clay36814
Alcorn3544
Prentiss3376
Hancock32614
Tishomingo3163
Yalobusha31610
Lawrence3135
Itawamba30710
Tippah30412
Clarke29825
Montgomery2913
Humphreys26911
Tunica2656
Carroll24511
Greene22611
Kemper22315
Perry2217
Quitman2211
Amite2105
Jefferson Davis1986
Webster19712
Jefferson1916
Wilkinson18712
Sharkey1801
Stone1483
Choctaw1264
Benton1240
Franklin1142
Issaquena211
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 89927

Reported Deaths: 1580
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson11650225
Mobile8998191
Montgomery6198143
Madison493225
Tuscaloosa391263
Baldwin317522
Shelby300232
Marshall294730
Unassigned263351
Lee249140
Morgan220615
Etowah191425
DeKalb167713
Elmore158437
Calhoun15359
Walker145763
Houston130912
Dallas128023
Russell12201
Franklin118420
Limestone118313
St. Clair118212
Cullman111311
Colbert107612
Lauderdale105312
Autauga101020
Escambia96515
Talladega89013
Jackson8163
Chambers81438
Tallapoosa80478
Dale77619
Butler75135
Blount7223
Covington70420
Coffee7035
Chilton6976
Pike6547
Barbour5625
Lowndes54624
Marion53524
Marengo51514
Clarke4849
Hale44925
Bullock43711
Perry4284
Winston42811
Wilcox4029
Monroe3884
Randolph38810
Conecuh37110
Bibb3643
Pickens3639
Sumter36118
Washington31011
Macon30813
Lawrence3060
Crenshaw2843
Choctaw27312
Henry2433
Greene24011
Cherokee2337
Geneva2260
Clay2165
Lamar1942
Fayette1695
Cleburne1141
Coosa902
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