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: 110592

Reported Deaths: 3171
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7731171
DeSoto655177
Harrison478481
Jackson429178
Rankin380086
Madison371092
Lee339279
Forrest292777
Jones281682
Washington250697
Lafayette241342
Lauderdale2329130
Lamar212038
Bolivar197775
Oktibbeha194154
Neshoba1795111
Lowndes173662
Panola164736
Leflore158786
Sunflower156749
Warren151854
Monroe143672
Pontotoc143019
Pike135555
Lincoln133954
Copiah133336
Marshall130026
Coahoma122836
Scott122729
Grenada119637
Simpson117648
Yazoo116933
Union113825
Holmes113060
Tate112339
Leake111839
Itawamba108724
Pearl River107456
Adams104042
Prentiss100919
Wayne97921
Alcorn94412
George93217
Marion92642
Covington90825
Tippah84820
Newton84227
Chickasaw81724
Tallahatchie81725
Winston81421
Tishomingo78640
Hancock76527
Attala76325
Clarke70948
Clay66621
Jasper66016
Walthall63427
Calhoun60912
Noxubee59516
Smith57716
Claiborne53016
Montgomery52723
Tunica51817
Lawrence48914
Yalobusha47914
Perry47522
Carroll45812
Greene44717
Stone44614
Amite41513
Quitman4096
Humphreys39916
Jefferson Davis39311
Webster36313
Wilkinson32920
Kemper31615
Benton3004
Sharkey27714
Jefferson26210
Franklin2283
Choctaw2036
Issaquena1063
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 152272

Reported Deaths: 2621
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22300372
Mobile14273314
Tuscaloosa9886132
Montgomery9615196
Madison895192
Shelby700260
Lee643066
Baldwin636967
Marshall425348
Calhoun408459
Etowah399149
Morgan393232
Houston362332
DeKalb313326
Elmore308152
St. Clair276742
Limestone268327
Walker264192
Talladega253634
Cullman223923
Lauderdale204340
Autauga198928
Franklin198131
Jackson197914
Russell18993
Colbert188927
Dallas184527
Blount182723
Chilton178731
Escambia170328
Covington164429
Coffee16299
Dale161551
Pike130112
Tallapoosa126986
Chambers126643
Clarke126116
Marion103929
Butler99640
Barbour9819
Marengo96421
Winston88613
Geneva8297
Pickens79317
Randolph79314
Lawrence78830
Bibb78513
Hale73729
Cherokee71414
Clay70312
Lowndes69827
Bullock63417
Henry6286
Monroe6259
Washington62012
Crenshaw58830
Perry5796
Conecuh55413
Wilcox55412
Fayette54012
Macon52819
Cleburne5207
Sumter46421
Lamar4555
Choctaw38612
Greene33316
Coosa1963
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