Center for Reproductive Rights challenges six-week abortion ban in court

Center for Reproductive Rights asks judge to block Mississippi’s new law criminalizing abortion after six weeks of pregnancy
Updated: Mar. 28, 2019 at 11:09 AM CDT
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JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - The Center for Reproductive Rights has expanded their current lawsuit in Mississippi, adding a challenge to the state’s six-week abortion ban recently signed into law.

The Center is asking a federal court to block the law before it takes effect on July 1, criminalizing abortion once a heartbeat has been detected—around six weeks of pregnancy.

According to the law, physicians who performs an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected could face revocation of his or her medical license. Abortions will be allowed after a fetal heartbeat is found if a pregnancy endangers a woman’s life or one of her major bodily functions.

The House and Senate both rejected efforts to allow exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

Governor Bryant knew that his signature on the fetal heartbeat bill puts Mississippi among the ranks of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country. And legislative leaders know the passage of the legislation opens the door to a repeat court challenge.

READ MORE: Governor signs fetal heartbeat bill into law

This ban is even more restrictive than Mississippi’s 15-week ban, which a federal district court struck down just months ago.

“I have absolutely no problem supporting strongly whatever it costs to defend this lawsuit because I care about unborn children,” said Lt. Governor Tate Reeves.

“We believe that it cannot be denied that once a heartbeat is detected that there is a life growing within the womb,” noted Speaker Philip Gunn.

“Let’s call this law what it is—a near total ban on abortion,” said Nancy Northup, President & CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Many women don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks, and this law would force them to carry their pregnancies to term. Just four months ago, a federal judge told Mississippi they cannot ban abortion after 15 weeks, and now they’ve banned it even earlier. We will keep taking them to court until they get the message.”

“Six weeks of pregnancy is just two weeks after the average woman misses her period.” said Shannon Brewer, director of Jackson Women’s Health Organization—the only abortion clinic left in Mississippi.

In November, a federal district court in Mississippi struck down the state’s 15-week ban, determining that it “unequivocally” violated the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of reproductive autonomy. The state continues to defend the 15-week ban on appeal.

In addition to Mississippi, three other states have passed six-week bans—Kentucky (2019); Iowa (2018); and North Dakota (2013)—but all have been blocked by the courts. The Supreme Court recognized in Roe v. Wade and reaffirmed just two years ago that states cannot deny women the ultimate decision to terminate a pregnancy prior to viability.

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