Mississippi Governor Signs Bill That Bans Abortions After Unborn Baby’s Heartbeat Detected

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
March 21, 2019USshare
Mississippi Governor Signs Bill That Bans Abortions After Unborn Baby’s Heartbeat Detected
In an illustration photo, a doctor performs an ultrasound on a pregnant woman during her visit to a gynecologist. (Jennifer Jacobs/AFP/Getty Images)

Mississippi Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, signed a bill on March 21 that bans abortions in the state after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

That typically takes place around six weeks after conception.

The law is one of the strictest in the nation and has Mississippi joining an increasing number of states considering similar restrictions on abortion.

Lawmakers in Georgia, South Carolina, and Ohio are among the states mulling the passage of “heartbeat” bills.

Bryant signed the bill, Senate Bill 2116 (pdf), into law with a host of supporters gathered around him. “This is a very important day in the history of Mississippi,” Lt. Gov. Reeves told reporters after the bill’s passage. “There was a lot of pressure from a lot of groups from primarily outside our state on these members of the legislature, but every one of them stood strong.”

He said the goal is to make “Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child.”

Unlike some “heartbeat” bills, the law does not include exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

But it does contain exceptions if a doctor says continuing a pregnancy would endanger a woman’s life or one of her major bodily functions.

“No person shall knowingly perform an abortion on a pregnant woman with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of the life of the unborn human individual that the pregnant woman is carrying and whose fetal heartbeat has been detected,” lawmakers wrote in the legislation.

“Any person who performs a medical procedure [after the heartbeat is detected] … shall declare in writing, under penalty of perjury, that the medical procedure was necessary, to the best of that person’s reasonable medical judgment, to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman,” the bill stated.

Any physician that violates the new law faces license revocation or disciplinary action.

It’s set to take effect on July 1.

a baby inside the womb
A 3D ultrasound showing a baby inside the womb. (Fotopress/Getty Images)

Judge Blocks Kentucky Law

A federal judge blocked a Kentucky law shortly after it was signed into law that would have stopped women from getting abortions on the basis of sex, race, or disability of the unborn baby.

House Bill 5 was passed by the state Senate 32-4 earlier in March after the House passed it 67-25 in late February. It was signed by Gov. Matt Bevin on March 19.

U.S. District Judge David Hale ordered Kentucky not to enforce the law on March 20.

The order came five days after Hale blocked Kentucky from instituting another law it passed, Senate Bill 9 that would have banned abortion once a fetal heartbeat was detected, which is typically about six weeks after conception.

Hale’s orders were reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal. They were not made public and it wasn’t clear on what basis he blocked the laws from taking effect.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed challenges to both laws, asking Hale to block them until he decided whether or not they are constitutional. The group claimed that women have a right to have an abortion and that the bills infringed upon that right.

NTD Photo
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin speaks at the unveiling of a new $80 million Toyota engineering headquarters in Georgetown, Kentucky, on Oct. 30, 2017. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

In a response filed in the U.S. District Court in Lousiville on Tuesday published by WYMT, Bevin’s office said that HB 5 bans “eugenics-based abortions.”

“Imagine that a woman in Kentucky wants an abortion merely because she wants a girl rather than a boy. Or imagine that the woman wants an abortion because she does not want her child to be a certain race or nationality. Or imagine that the woman wants an abortion because her unborn child has a nonlethal disability like Down syndrome. Until now, abortions like these have been legal in the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” wrote Adam Meier, secretary of Health and Family Services in Kentucky, in the filing.

NTD Photo
IEscort volunteers line up outside the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, Ky, on July 17, 2017. (Dylan Lovan/AP Photo)

“EMW [Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville] and its abortionists have responded with a novel claim: Women have a constitutional right to undergo race-based abortions, gender-based abortions, and disability-based abortions. In (the) plaintiffs’ view, somewhere in the Fourteenth Amendment’s penumbra lies a secret protection of eugenics,” Meier added.

Eugenics is the practice of attempting to improve the human population by blocking the births of people considered to be inferior, including, historically, certain races.

Republican Rep. Melinda Gibbons Prunty, the bill’s lead sponsor, said after the state House passed the bill that abortions in such cases are “reminiscent of the social evil of eugenics,” the Courier-Journal reported.

In its filing, the ACLU wrote: “Plaintiffs will prevail on their claim that the Bans are unconstitutional under 46 years of Supreme Court precedent, beginning with ‘Roe v. Wade,’ 410 U.S. 113 (1973), which unequivocally holds that the State may not ban abortion before the point of fetal viability, regardless of the woman’s reason for her decision.”

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