News Abortion

Mississippi Governor Signs Involuntary Cord Blood Collection Bill to ‘Protect’ Teens

Robin Marty

Mississippi hasn't had much red meat to offer anti-choice activists this year when it comes to legislative victories, so the Republican governor is taking his wins where he can.

The 2013 legislative session has ended in Mississippi, and Republican Gov. Phil Bryant is signing a number of bills into law. Those laws did not include any significant new restrictions on Mississippians’ abortion rights or access to contraception. But one bill that received Bryant’s signature in April, and which he is now touting as a major achievement this session, may restrict young people’s civil rights more than it protects teens from sexual abuse, as it is claimed to do.

Mississippi anti-choice legislators had a major victory in 2012, when their bill meant to close the state’s sole abortion provider was signed into law. Since then, not only have anti-choice activists been unable to get the courts to agree to close Jackson Women’s Health Organization, they have been mostly unsuccessful at passing the extreme bills that they envisioned.

Advocated by Mississippi Right to Life and the state’s anti-choice activists, the top anti-choice legislative effort for 2013 was to be a restriction on dispensing RU-486, a move that would require additional office visits and follow-ups for women in an effort to force them into surgical abortions by default. Although the bill passed, the final version was much less restrictive than the original; it was panned by anti-choice leaders and failed medical board nominee Terri Herring.

With a failed effort to virtually eliminate medication abortion in the state, and a new “personhood” initiative not on the docket until 2014, there may not have been much for a radically anti-choice governor to hang his hat on this year. However, Bryant has honed in on a somewhat obscure bill that changes reporting requirements on sex crimes, and is now heralded it as one of his signature pieces of legislation, according to reporter and blogger Andy Kopsa.

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HB 151 says that practitioners who perform abortions on people under age 14 must “preserve fetal tissue extracted during the abortion” and test it to determine who impregnated her (despite the fact that the amount of fetal tissue extracted during an early abortion is miniscule). Practitioners will also be required to test the umbilical cord blood of infants born to women under age 16 if it is “reasonable to suspect” that conception could have been a result of a sex crime. The bill defines “reasonable to suspect” in the following way:

It shall be reasonable to suspect that a sex crime against a minor has occurred if the mother of an infant was less than sixteen (16) years of age at the time of conception and at least one (1) of the following conditions also applies:

1.  The mother of the infant will not identify the father of the infant;

2.  The mother of the infant lists the father of the infant as unknown;

3.  The person the mother identifies as the father of the infant disputes his fatherhood;

4.  The person the mother identifies as the father of the infant is twenty-one (21) years of age or older; or

5.  The person the mother identifies as the father is deceased.

“[T]his bill supposes every teen 16 or under was raped or molested and allows for no interpretation,” writes Kopsa. “Across the board this procedure would be done without permission, veiled as in some way protecting teens.”

The governor signed HB 151 into law on April 23, and it will go into effect July 1.

News Law and Policy

Oklahoma Governor Signs Bill to Create Anti-Choice Public Education Campaign

Teddy Wilson

HB 2797 directs the Oklahoma State Department of Health to develop materials that “provide public information through public service announcements, media and otherwise for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society.”

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) Monday signed into law a bill authorizing the state’s health department and local schools to provide “educational materials” to the public that “clearly and consistently teach that abortion kills a living human being.”

HB 2797 directs the Oklahoma State Department of Health to develop materials that “provide public information through public service announcements, media and otherwise for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society.” 

The so-called Humanity of the Unborn Child Act, which was sponsored by Rep. Ann Coody (R-Lawton), also creates an optional instructional program for school students. Coody said the intent of the bill is to instruct teenagers that life begins at conception, reported the Tulsa World.

Joe Thai, who teaches constitutional law at the University of Oklahoma Law School, told the local NBC affiliate there are significant concerns about HB 2797.

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“There certainly would be a question whether or not mandating that teaching from one point of view of a hot political button issue is really where state public schools should be going rather than teaching math reading and writing and leaving abortion and other hot button issues to parents and to the pulpit,” Thai said.

Democrats also criticized proponents of the bill for their focus on abortion without any focus on sex education.

“You’re starting a book at the end,” Rep. Jason Dunnington (D-Oklahoma City) said, reported the Tulsa World. “A student in Oklahoma would learn about abortion and gestational cycles, but there would be no guarantee that they would learn about sex and pregnancy.”

House Democrats attempted to amend the bill during the house floor debate in March.

Rep. Emily Virgin (D-Norman) offered an amendment to the bill that would include a requirement that comprehensive sex education also be taught as part of the anti-choice curriculum. Dunnington also offered an amendment to “provide family planning services, including all forms of contraceptives.”

Both amendments were voted down by the Republican majority.

The GOP-dominated state legislature, in which Republicans hold a 70-31 majority in the house and a 39-9 majority in the senate, easily passed the measure. The house voted in May to pass the bill with a 69-15 vote, and it was then passed by the senate with a 42-1 vote.

The new law will take effect on November 1; however, the bill’s implementation is “contingent on the provision of appropriated funds or revolving funds designated for the State Board of Education for such purpose.”

News Abortion

Mississippi Governor Signs Bill Outlawing Common Abortion Procedure

Teddy Wilson

"Governor Bryant just signed a clear attack on women's health care as part of a plan to ban abortion across the board,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R), who has said that it is his goal to “end abortion” in the state, signed a bill Friday that criminalizes a medical procedure often used after miscarriages and during second-trimester abortion care.

“We’re making Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child,” Bryant said in a post on Twitter.

HB 519, sponsored by Rep. Sam Mims (R-McComb), would prohibit a physician from performing the dilation and evacuation (D and E) abortion procedure unless it is necessary to “prevent serious health risk” to the pregnant person.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement that the law is not based on medicine.

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“Governor Bryant just signed a clear attack on women’s health care as part of a plan to ban abortion across the board,” Laguens said. “Planned Parenthood will continue to fight to protect the rights of our patients and their access to safe medical care, no matter what.”

Similar bills have been introduced this year in several states. The bills are copies of legislation drafted by the anti-choice group known as the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).

State courts have blocked such measures passed by GOP lawmakers in Oklahoma and Kansas. West Virginia’s Republican-led legislature in March voted to override the veto of a similar bill.

The law takes effect on July 1.

CORRECTION:​ A previous version of this story stated that “federal courts” have blocked D and E bans in Oklahoma and Kansas, but only state courts have blocked such measures. We regret the error.