Federal judge overturns Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban

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Cleoinc.org

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves

A federal judge has permanently blocked Mississippi’s attempted ban on abortions at 15 weeks, calling the law, which was in effect for just one day, “one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.”

Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1510, known as the “Gestational Age Act,” into law in mid-March. The law prohibited all abortions at and beyond a woman’s fifteenth week of pregnancy, unless the woman’s life is in danger or the fetus has a life-threatening abnormality.

Less than an hour after the bill became law, Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health, sued the state, calling the law unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves issued a temporary restraining order, suspending the law. But for those 18 hours, Mississippi had the nation’s strictest abortion law.

On Tuesday, Reeves made that temporary injunction permanent, calling the law an unconstitutional ploy to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion nationwide.

“No, the real reason we are here is simple. The State chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to endorse a decades-long campaign, fueled by national interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Reeves wrote.

“This Court follows the commands of the Supreme Court and the dictates of the United States Constitution, rather than the disingenuous calculations of the Mississippi Legislature.”

Although Bryant was a vocal supporter of the law, he has indicated he knew it would spur a legal battle. At the bill signing in March, Bryant joked, “We’ll probably be sued in about half an hour. That’ll be fine with me. It’ll be worth fighting over.”

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Jackson Women’s Health Clinic, called Reeves’s decision a “wake-up call.”

“Our victory today means that women in Mississippi will maintain the ability to make their own decisions about whether and when to terminate a pregnancy,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Today’s decision should be a wake-up call for state lawmakers who are continuously trying to chip away at abortion access. Such bans will not stand in a court of law.”

Also as a result of today’s decision, a nearly identical 15-week ban passed in Louisiana in May will not go into effect, because that law’s effective date depends on the outcome of the lawsuit challenging Mississippi’s 15-week ban.

In April, Jackson Women’s Health Organization expanded its lawsuit against the 15-week ban to challenge a series of other Mississippi abortion restrictions. These laws, which include mandatory wait periods for abortion and increased staffing requirements for clinics, make it more difficult for clinics to stay open.