'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: 500286

Reported Deaths: 9968
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34281537
DeSoto32039402
Hinds31911626
Jackson24466379
Rankin21971390
Lee15501235
Madison14566279
Jones13825242
Forrest13438250
Lauderdale11984316
Lowndes11003188
Lamar10510135
Pearl River9494237
Lafayette8542139
Hancock7727126
Washington7418157
Oktibbeha7139131
Monroe6765176
Warren6679176
Pontotoc6655102
Neshoba6625206
Panola6511131
Marshall6460134
Bolivar6302148
Union601294
Pike5815152
Alcorn5662101
Lincoln5431134
George496579
Scott472198
Tippah468381
Prentiss466581
Leflore4654144
Itawamba4628105
Adams4584119
Tate4579109
Copiah447792
Simpson4440116
Yazoo443687
Wayne439172
Covington428694
Sunflower4235105
Marion4225107
Coahoma4154104
Leake408088
Newton381679
Grenada3703108
Stone359764
Tishomingo359492
Attala331089
Jasper329565
Winston314091
Clay307676
Chickasaw299467
Clarke292194
Calhoun278945
Holmes267887
Smith263350
Yalobusha233347
Tallahatchie226851
Walthall218763
Greene218248
Lawrence212440
Perry205256
Amite204755
Webster202646
Noxubee186440
Montgomery179456
Jefferson Davis171442
Carroll168738
Tunica159439
Benton148438
Kemper141941
Choctaw133326
Claiborne132237
Humphreys129238
Franklin119428
Quitman106428
Wilkinson104839
Jefferson94434
Sharkey64020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 815989

Reported Deaths: 15311
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1144621915
Mobile723961330
Madison52114694
Shelby37488348
Baldwin37167547
Tuscaloosa35013606
Montgomery34031734
Lee23177245
Calhoun22190476
Morgan20719376
Etowah19774497
Marshall18277302
Houston17333411
St. Clair15967339
Cullman15365292
Limestone15270198
Elmore15126284
Lauderdale14205294
Talladega13783276
DeKalb12598260
Walker11142369
Blount10132175
Autauga9910146
Jackson9819182
Coffee9190191
Dale8874185
Colbert8803201
Tallapoosa7063198
Escambia6755130
Covington6695184
Chilton6608161
Russell626659
Franklin5947105
Chambers5563142
Marion4966126
Dallas4902200
Clarke474083
Pike4722105
Geneva4567126
Winston4493103
Lawrence4286117
Bibb423686
Barbour356576
Marengo337489
Monroe330863
Randolph328263
Butler325396
Pickens314182
Henry311865
Hale310688
Cherokee301660
Fayette291379
Washington251151
Cleburne247160
Crenshaw244075
Clay241268
Macon231763
Lamar219547
Conecuh185753
Coosa179439
Lowndes174464
Wilcox167839
Bullock151644
Perry138440
Sumter132038
Greene126244
Choctaw87827
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