JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — An abortion-rights group is asking a federal judge to block a Mississippi law that will ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, about six weeks into pregnancy.
The Center for Reproductive Rights on Thursday expanded a lawsuit it filed last year challenging a Mississippi law that banned abortions after 15 weeks' pregnancy. A federal judge declared that law unconstitutional.
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed the heartbeat bill March 21, and it is set to become law July 1. It's one of the strictest abortion laws in the nation.
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement that the law is "a near total ban on abortion."
"Many women don't even know they're pregnant at six weeks, and this law would force them to carry their pregnancies to term," Northup said. "Just four months ago, a federal judge told Mississippi they cannot ban abortion after 15 weeks, and now they've banned it even earlier. We will keep taking them to court until they get the message."
After Bryant signed the law, he said expected a legal challenge but was not bothered by that.
"They don't have to sue us. It's up to them," Bryant said. "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. But it is worth it."
Mississippi is one of several states where Republican leaders are considering abortion-restriction bills this year. Abortion opponents are emboldened by new conservatives on the Supreme Court and are seeking to challenge the court's 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
The Mississippi law says a physician who performs an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected could face revocation of his or her state medical license. 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. The House and Senate both rejected efforts to allow exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.
Georgia is among the states considering similar bills. Kentucky's law banning abortion after the detection of a heartbeat was immediately challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union when Republican Gov. Matt Bevin signed it on March 14, and a federal judge temporarily blocked it. A federal judge on Wednesday also blocked another Kentucky law that would ban abortion for women seeking to end their pregnancies because of the gender, race or disability of the fetus.