Jackson Women's Health Organization Director Shannon Brewer (right, front) leaves federal court in Jackson, joined by attorneys from the Center for Reproductive Rights, after a hearing on Mississippi's six-week abortion ban.
Photo by Ashton Pittman.
JACKSON, Miss.—U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves did not rule on whether or not he will block Mississippi's six-week abortion ban in federal court today. He said he will issue a ruling at a later date on whether to block it from taking effect.
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit on behalf of Mississippi's only abortion clinic, the Jackson Women's Health Organization, or JWHO. Their attorneys argued that the ban is unconstitutional because it violates the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which declared abortion a constitutional right and explicitly protected the right to an abortion procedure before the point of viability. At six weeks, or when a fetal heartbeat first becomes detectable, most women do not know they are pregnant.
Last year, Reeves shut down another abortion ban in the state, which banned the procedure after 15 weeks. The State of Mississippi appealed it to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Reeves pointed out that a six-week ban would meet a similar fate.
Red states, emboldened by the Trump regime, are passing hardline anti-abortion laws aimed at triggering a reconsideration of Roe at the nation's highest court—laws like the fetal heartbeat bills the Mississippi House and Senate passed on Feb. 13.
"It sure smacks of defiance to this court," Reeves said, referring to the Legislature's decision to pass and Bryant's decision to sign the "heartbeat bill" into law in March.
Shannon Brewer, the director of the state's abortion clinic, told the Jackson Free Press after the hearing that she is concerned that anti-abortion groups may use this case or cases in other states to overturn Roe v. Wade.
"We know this is going on in multiple states, so of course we are worried, but of course we are going to fight whatever they try to put out there," she said.
Mississippi's law contains no exceptions for rape or incest. The only exception is in cases where a woman's life is in danger.
In 2011, Mississippi voters decisively defeated a Personhood initiative to ban abortion and several forms of birth control in the state. Gov. Phil Bryant was chairman of that campaign in the state.
This is a developing story; watch for updates.
Follow state reporter Ashton Pittman on Twitter @ashtonpittman. Send tips to [email protected]. Read more about the right over abortion in Mississippi at jacksonfreepress.com/abortion and jacksonfreepress.com/personhood.