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: 497790

Reported Deaths: 9917
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34102530
DeSoto31839398
Hinds31837622
Jackson24314377
Rankin21881388
Lee15427234
Madison14525279
Jones13772241
Forrest13412250
Lauderdale11937314
Lowndes10934185
Lamar10470135
Pearl River9431237
Lafayette8454138
Hancock7697126
Washington7365156
Oktibbeha7111129
Monroe6727174
Warren6642176
Pontotoc6609101
Neshoba6606205
Panola6460131
Marshall6386132
Bolivar6266145
Union596094
Pike5784152
Alcorn5633101
Lincoln5417134
George491879
Scott470998
Tippah465381
Prentiss464181
Leflore4627143
Itawamba4596104
Adams4570119
Tate4546109
Copiah445191
Simpson4421116
Wayne438572
Yazoo438586
Covington427394
Marion4216107
Sunflower4215104
Coahoma4115104
Leake407787
Newton380879
Grenada3692108
Stone358464
Tishomingo356391
Attala330289
Jasper328265
Winston313191
Clay306375
Chickasaw296767
Clarke290694
Calhoun277945
Holmes266987
Smith262550
Yalobusha232647
Tallahatchie225251
Walthall217763
Greene215548
Lawrence211140
Perry204755
Amite203954
Webster201645
Noxubee185340
Montgomery179056
Jefferson Davis170642
Carroll167438
Tunica158639
Benton147438
Kemper141241
Choctaw133026
Claiborne131237
Humphreys129038
Franklin119128
Quitman106227
Wilkinson104539
Jefferson94234
Sharkey64020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 814025

Reported Deaths: 15179
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1140561910
Mobile722691323
Madison52017686
Shelby37304341
Baldwin37087540
Tuscaloosa34966599
Montgomery33971725
Lee23149240
Calhoun22159470
Morgan20659372
Etowah19764496
Marshall18254300
Houston17310405
St. Clair15921337
Cullman15325290
Limestone15222198
Elmore15086284
Lauderdale14157294
Talladega13723272
DeKalb12574259
Walker11089366
Blount10102174
Autauga9901146
Jackson9793180
Coffee9182189
Dale8864181
Colbert8791200
Tallapoosa7044195
Escambia6743127
Covington6685179
Chilton6592160
Russell626158
Franklin5935105
Chambers5560142
Marion4958126
Dallas4889199
Clarke473482
Pike4720105
Geneva4564126
Winston4476101
Lawrence4266117
Bibb421786
Barbour355675
Marengo334089
Monroe330462
Randolph327663
Butler324894
Pickens313982
Henry311265
Hale309487
Cherokee300057
Fayette290979
Washington251151
Cleburne247058
Crenshaw243775
Clay240767
Macon230762
Lamar217846
Conecuh185652
Coosa178838
Lowndes174161
Wilcox167738
Bullock151744
Perry138040
Sumter131138
Greene125844
Choctaw87027
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