JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi’s heartbeat abortion ban is being challenged in federal court. It’s a day that state lawmakers knew would come and all of the debates at the State Capitol during the legislative session included the likely legal challenge. It comes as the state continues to appeal the decision of the last abortion ban.
The case was heard in the same courthouse, by the same judge as last year’s 15-week abortion ban. This year, a more restrictive law was passed. The law prohibits most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Judge Carlton Reeves said in the courtroom that the legislature’s decision to pass a more restrictive ban than what the court struck down previously “sure smacks of defiance to this court.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights is representing the state’s lone abortion clinic.
“We’re asking the court to block the law before it takes effect on July 1st because it would essentially extinguish the right to abortion in this state,” said Center for Reproductive Rights staff attorney Hillary Schneller. “Because it bans abortion before many people even know they’re pregnant. It’s essentially a total ban on abortion."
The state’s attorney argued the new law is not an outright ban on abortion but a limitation on when the procedure can be done. While the plaintiffs say it is unconstitutional and in defiance of the Supreme Court precedent.
Governor Bryant knew a repeat court case was likely on the day he signed the bill. “If they do not believe in the sanctity of life, those that are in organizations like Planned Parenthood, we will have to fight that fight,” said Bryant following the bill signing in March. “But it is worth it.”
The state has one remaining abortion clinic and the director says these developments have sparked more questions from patients. “They’ve been calling thinking we are closed trying to make sure that we are still open and seeing patients and we are just reassuring them that we are,” explained clinic director Shannon Brewer. “And that we are going to be fighting for this.”
Judge Reeves said he plans to issue a decision soon but did not say exactly when.