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.

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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