Judge Temporarily Blocks Mississippi’s New 15-Week Abortion Law

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

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A federal judge has temporarily blocked the new Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks. While reproductive rights are under assault around the country, this is the most restrictive abortion law in the United States, not allowing for exceptions in cases of rape and incest.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves granted a temporary restraining order, which was requested by the state’s only abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Center, according to the Associated Press. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1510 into law on Monday, and called Reeves’ ruling “disappointing,” vowing to “make Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child.”

Diane Derzis, the owner of Jackson Women’s Health Center, told the AP that a 15-weeks-pregnant woman was able to get an abortion at the clinic on Tuesday, right after Reeves had blocked the law.

“Judge Reeves’ decision today isn’t surprising,” Democratic National Committee women’s media director Elizabeth Renda told Refinery29. “Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban bill is unconstitutional. This is just the latest assault in an all-out war on women by Republicans across the country. Just in the past week, America watched as Republicans in Iowa, Mississippi, and Ohio advanced what would be the three most restrictive abortion bans in the country.”

Republicans in Iowa are advancing a legislative effort to ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, or after about the sixth week of pregnancy. In Ohio, a group of legislators are trying to ban abortion altogether, with no exceptions for rape, incest, or danger to a woman’s life.

Courts generally interpret abortion bans before 20 weeks as unconstitutional based on a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability. (A fetus is usually considered viable after 20 weeks.) In 2015, for example, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Arkansas’ 12-week abortion ban. According to a 2009 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 7% of all abortions in the U.S. happen between 14 and 20 weeks.

Anti-choice politicians have recently been emboldened in their efforts to restrict or eradicate abortion, with Vice President Mike Pence even going so far as to say legal abortion would end “in our time.” But research has shown that although abortion rates have declined by 25% between 2008 and 2014, nearly one in four women will have the procedure by age 45. Women are unlikely to stop having abortions; with the GOP’s draconian measures, they would just become less safe. Factors that have made abortions rarer include birth control and comprehensive sex education, but Republicans have made access to both more difficult.

Reproductive-rights advocates are fighting on. “This is a dangerous law for patients in Mississippi that, had it been allowed to go into effect, would have had drastic effects on access to abortion care,” Jamila Perritt, MD, a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, told Refinery29. “Politics have no place in the exam room, and I am hopeful the court will permanently block this cruel and clearly unconstitutional law.”

“This is shameful,” said Renda. “Democrats will not stop fighting for women to have the fundamental right to make decisions about their own bodies.”

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