Mississippi could test how soon state can restrict abortion

 
 
Updated 3/8/2018 12:58 PM
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  • FILE - In this June 30, 2015, file photo, razor grass and pro-choice signs limit the view of patients entering the Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic in Jackson, Miss. The facility is currently Mississippi's only abortion clinic. Abortion law experts say House Bill 1510, which passed the Mississippi Senate Tuesday, March 7, 2018, and is one House vote away from the desk of a governor eager to sign it, is an invitation to the Supreme Court to allow states to begin restricting abortion earlier in pregnancy. The law that passed the Senate would ban most abortions after 15 weeks.

    FILE - In this June 30, 2015, file photo, razor grass and pro-choice signs limit the view of patients entering the Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic in Jackson, Miss. The facility is currently Mississippi's only abortion clinic. Abortion law experts say House Bill 1510, which passed the Mississippi Senate Tuesday, March 7, 2018, and is one House vote away from the desk of a governor eager to sign it, is an invitation to the Supreme Court to allow states to begin restricting abortion earlier in pregnancy. The law that passed the Senate would ban most abortions after 15 weeks. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this June 30, 2015, file photo, Pam Miller, of Pro Life Mississippi, walks along the fence surrounding as she attempts to counsel a person entering the Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic near downtown Jackson, Miss. The facility is currently Mississippi's only abortion clinic. Abortion law experts say House Bill 1510, which passed the Mississippi Senate Tuesday, March 7, 2018, and is one House vote away from the desk of a governor eager to sign it, is an invitation to the Supreme Court to allow states to begin restricting abortion earlier in pregnancy. The law that passed the Senate would ban most abortions after 15 weeks.

    FILE - In this June 30, 2015, file photo, Pam Miller, of Pro Life Mississippi, walks along the fence surrounding as she attempts to counsel a person entering the Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic near downtown Jackson, Miss. The facility is currently Mississippi's only abortion clinic. Abortion law experts say House Bill 1510, which passed the Mississippi Senate Tuesday, March 7, 2018, and is one House vote away from the desk of a governor eager to sign it, is an invitation to the Supreme Court to allow states to begin restricting abortion earlier in pregnancy. The law that passed the Senate would ban most abortions after 15 weeks. Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. -- Mississippi lawmakers on Thursday passed what is likely to be the nation's most restrictive abortion law.

The House voted 75-34 in favor of the measure, which would make most abortions illegal after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has said he'll sign the bill. The Mississippi Senate passed the measure on Tuesday.

The bill could spark a court challenge focusing on whether states can ban abortions before fetuses can survive outside the womb. The owner of Mississippi's only abortion clinic, Jackson Women's Health Organization, has pledged to sue.

There are two exceptions to House Bill 1510: if the fetus has a health problem that would prevent it from surviving outside the womb at full term, or if the pregnant woman's life or a "major bodily function" is threatened by the pregnancy. Pregnancies as a result of rape and incest would not be exempt.

The bill "would violate four decades of unwavering Supreme Court precedent holding that a state may not ban abortion prior to viability," the Center for Reproductive Rights wrote in a letter asking legislative leaders to block it. The center, which supports legal abortion, calls Mississippi's move unconstitutional and "medically unsound."

Mississippi already had tied with North Carolina for the nation's shortest abortion term, limiting abortions to 20 weeks since a woman's last menstruation. That limit has not yet been challenged in the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals - possibly because the Mississippi clinic doesn't offer abortions after 20 weeks.

Clinic owner Diane Derzis has said that her clinic does perform abortions until about 18 weeks. She said she believes the state is trying to set up a test case that will go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Senate failed to pass a 20-week abortion ban bill in January. With 60 'yes' votes required to advance, the bill failed on a 51-46 vote.

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