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Common Abortion Procedure Could Soon Be Outlawed in Mississippi

Teddy Wilson

Dilation and evacuation bans are a strategy by the anti-choice movement to target specific abortion procedures. Medical professionals criticize these bans as substituting politicians’ agendas for the judgment and expertise of doctors.

Several Mississippi Democrats joined Republicans in passing a bill Tuesday that would criminalize a medical procedure often used after miscarriages and during second-trimester abortion care.

HB 519, sponsored by Rep. Sam Mims (R-McComb), would prohibit a physician from performing a so-called dismemberment abortion unless it is necessary to prevent serious health risk to the pregnant person.

The bill targets the dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure. During the procedure, a physician dilates the patient’s cervix and removes the fetus using forceps, clamps, or other instruments.

Violation of the measure would be a felony, and physicians could face fines up to $10,000 and up to two years in jail.
Republican legislators in several states have introduced bills to ban the D and E procedure over the past two years. The bills have been copies of legislation drafted by the anti-choice group known as the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).

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

D and E bans are the latest chapter in a decades-old strategy by the anti-choice movement to target specific abortion procedures. Health and medical professionals criticize these bans as substituting politicians’ agendas for the judgment and expertise of doctors.

D and E abortion bans may effectively outlaw abortions past 14 weeks’ gestation. Non-medication abortions are usually performed using vacuum aspiration prior to 14 weeks’ gestation. The D and E procedure is used after that point, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Diane Derzis, owner of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, told the Jackson Free Press that the bill represented an intrusion into sound medical care.

“You’re having the legislature tell a physician what instruments he or she can use, and that’s a dangerous precedent because you can use those instruments at eight or ten weeks, or anytime,” Derzis said.

The bill was easily passed by majorities in the Republican-dominated Mississippi legislature.

After passage by the house in February, the state senate passed the bill in a 40-6 vote, with ten Democrats joining Republicans in passing the measure.

The house voted on final passage of the bill Tuesday with an 85-32 vote, approving the amended version passed by the state senate. Nine house Democrats joined with the Republican majority in voting for final passage.

Gov. Phil Bryant (R), who has said that it is his goal to “end abortion” in the state, has not yet said whether he will sign the D and E ban. After the bill is delivered to the governor, he will have five days to sign or veto the bill, after which time the bill will become law without his signature.

The law would take effect July 1.

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