Judge Issues Restraining Order to Block Mississippi Attack on Abortion Rights

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves on Tuesday granted a 10-day restraining order on Mississippi’s new law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by the state’s lone abortion provider after the ban was signed into law on Monday.

Within hours of Mississippi’s Republican governor signing the nation’s most restrictive abortion law on Monday, the state’s sole clinic filed a lawsuit, and a federal judge scheduled a Tuesday morning hearing to discuss blocking the law, which imposes a ban on abortions after just 15 weeks of pregnancy.

“A woman’s right to her own reproductive healthcare should be her decision, not the state government’s.”
—ACLU of Mississippi

During the signing ceremony for House Bill 1510 (pdf), Gov. Phil Bryant reportedly said “we’ll probably be sued in about half an hour.”

Sure enough, less than an hour later, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, backed by the Center of Reproductive Rights (CRR), filed suit (pdf) and requested “an immediate halt to the law, telling a federal judge that a woman who is 15 weeks or more pregnant is scheduled to have an abortion Tuesday afternoon,” according to the Associated Press.

“Mississippi politicians have shown once again that they will stop at nothing to deny women this fundamental right, targeting the state’s last remaining clinic in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court and decades of settled precedent,” CRR president and CEO Nancy Northup said in a statement.

“Politicians are not above the rule of law, and we are confident this dangerous bill will be struck down like every similar attempt before it,” she added. “All women deserve access to safe and legal abortion care.”

“The ban is clearly an attempt to effectively bring the state one step closer to outlawing abortion entirely.”
—Kaylie Hanson Long, NARAL

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CRR’s complaint notes that the only exceptions to the law’s ban on the procedure after 15 weeks are if the woman is experiencing a medical emergency that poses a threat to her life or will cause “irreversible” bodily harm, or if a doctor determines that a “severe fetal abnormality” means the fetus will never be able to survive outside the womb.

Attorneys supporting the clinic argue that the law violates Mississippi women’s substantive due process and equal protection rights that are guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Several other reproductive rights and legal advocacy groups have spoken out against the state law.

Shilpa Phadke, vice president of the Women’s Initiative at the Center for American Progress, concluded that the law “is a new low when it comes to harming women’s access to abortion,” and “is out of step with the realities that women face—including the lack of exemptions for rape and incest and the fact that Mississippi has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the country.”

“There is no doubt that this unconstitutional abortion ban will harm Mississippi women and families,” declared NARAL Pro-Choice America communications director Kaylie Hanson Long. “We know that when abortion access is restricted so severely, the number of abortions does not go down—the number of deaths and injuries to women goes up.”

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“Governor Bryant should be ashamed of himself,” Long added. “The ban is clearly an attempt to effectively bring the state one step closer to outlawing abortion entirely.”

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