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US judge to consider blocking new Mississippi abortion law

MGN Online

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves is scheduled to hear arguments on Tuesday over the clinic's request for him to stop the law from taking effect July 1.

Posted: May 20, 2019 2:07 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Inside Mississippi's only abortion clinic, administrator Shannon Brewer has been fielding phone calls from women who want to know whether they can still terminate a pregnancy if they think they might be more than a few weeks along.

The confusion comes from a Mississippi law that's set to ban abortions after a fetus's heartbeat is detected: about six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant. The clinic has sued to block it, and a judge was scheduled to hear arguments on the request Tuesday.


Gov. Phil Bryant signed the heartbeat abortion bill in March 2019.

Brewer says that since abortion has been in the news frequently for the past few months, the Mississippi clinic, the Jackson Women's Health Organization, is receiving calls from potential patients not only from inside the state but also from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee.

"They're calling to make sure we're not closed," she said.

The Mississippi law, signed by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant in March, 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. Legislators rejected efforts to allow exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

The Jackson Women's Health Organization says the law is unconstitutional under the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide.

Abortion opponents have pushed new restrictions in several states this year — the most recent being Alabama, which just last week passed a law banning nearly all abortions — in the hopes that a case will make its way to the high court. They are emboldened by new conservative justices on the court appointed by President Donald Trump, who tweeted over the weekend that he opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the pregnant woman.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves is scheduled to hear arguments on Tuesday over the clinic's request for him to stop the law from taking effect July 1. It was unclear whether Reeves would issue a decision immediately. If Reeves were to temporarily block the law, he would hear arguments later on the larger question of constitutionality. In 2018, Mississippi enacted a law to ban abortions after 15 weeks, and Reeves struck it down, writing that it "unequivocally" violates women's constitutional rights.

Governors in Georgia, Kentucky and Ohio have also signed bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Missouri lawmakers passed an eight-week ban Friday. Other states, including Louisiana, are considering similarly restrictive laws. None of the laws that have been signed have yet taken effect. All are expected to be blocked while challenges work their way through courts.

"Other states are following Mississippi with heartbeat bills," Bryant tweeted on Sunday. "A new national movement has begun. We now have a President that stands for the unborn. Look for the left to increase their hateful attacks."

Jackson Women's Health Organization has four physicians who travel from Atlanta, Boston and California to do abortions, Brewer said. Abortion opponents stand outside the bright pink clinic several days each month to sing, pray and beseech women not to go inside.

Posters inside the clinic tell about the most effective birth control methods, and a basket of condoms sits in the room where women are required under a years-old Mississippi law to receive counseling at least 24 hours before an abortion can be done. They have to make a second trip to the clinic to have the procedure.

Brewer said the earliest point at which the clinic does abortions is at about six weeks of pregnancy, and the average is at about eight to 10 weeks. The latest the clinic will do an abortion is 16 weeks.

Banning abortion after six weeks "is the same as banning abortion," she said.

Republican state Sen. Angela Hill of Picayune was one of the main sponsors of the Mississippi bill. During a Senate debate in February, Hill fought back tears as she said she said it would help women and children.

"I see in this country that we protect sea turtle eggs and we protect other endangered species of animals with a greater degree of scrutiny and zealousness than we protect a child in the womb," Hill said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 159036

Reported Deaths: 3879
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10563104
Hinds10414204
Harrison7397113
Jackson6655128
Rankin6057107
Lee540396
Madison5120107
Forrest394786
Jones376188
Lauderdale3663147
Lafayette341053
Washington3321108
Lamar301950
Oktibbeha255262
Lowndes252867
Bolivar248084
Panola237353
Neshoba2280122
Marshall225051
Leflore211191
Monroe209778
Pontotoc208131
Lincoln200566
Sunflower194155
Warren183058
Tate180451
Union172926
Copiah170840
Pike166760
Scott161330
Yazoo161340
Itawamba159936
Alcorn159328
Pearl River158969
Coahoma155943
Prentiss154931
Simpson154053
Adams147252
Grenada145445
Leake141844
Holmes134461
Covington130040
Tippah130030
George129525
Winston128726
Hancock127641
Wayne123024
Attala122834
Marion121447
Tishomingo114043
Chickasaw110732
Newton110529
Tallahatchie99427
Clay96127
Clarke94853
Jasper87023
Stone82015
Calhoun79513
Walthall79330
Montgomery78426
Carroll75515
Lawrence74614
Smith74216
Yalobusha74228
Noxubee73317
Perry68726
Tunica63019
Greene62422
Jefferson Davis59617
Claiborne59216
Amite57615
Humphreys55219
Quitman5107
Benton50418
Kemper48018
Webster47714
Wilkinson40722
Jefferson38312
Choctaw3637
Franklin3635
Sharkey32917
Issaquena1214
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 256828

Reported Deaths: 3711
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34214511
Mobile20299366
Madison13925150
Tuscaloosa13591156
Montgomery12659238
Shelby1095877
Baldwin9163137
Lee792566
Morgan710851
Etowah677467
Calhoun6695121
Marshall665757
Houston548239
DeKalb504738
Cullman472043
St. Clair451857
Limestone447546
Lauderdale436054
Elmore427564
Walker3818111
Talladega374457
Jackson350723
Colbert336443
Blount310043
Autauga287342
Franklin259734
Coffee254115
Dale242054
Dallas232932
Chilton230841
Russell22813
Covington227934
Escambia206131
Tallapoosa189191
Chambers185950
Pike162214
Clarke161819
Marion146136
Winston141924
Lawrence135336
Pickens127720
Geneva12638
Marengo125224
Bibb123938
Barbour120629
Butler118842
Randolph105922
Cherokee105524
Hale99732
Fayette96316
Clay93525
Washington93319
Henry8946
Monroe83811
Lowndes82129
Cleburne79914
Macon76522
Crenshaw72930
Conecuh72414
Lamar7138
Bullock70919
Perry6927
Wilcox64918
Sumter58922
Greene44218
Choctaw43519
Coosa3724
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