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Judge Blocks Mississippi’s 15-Week Abortion Ban, Rips State’s GOP Legislature

Jessica Mason Pieklo

“This Court follows the commands of the Supreme Court and the dictates of the United States Constitution, rather than the disingenuous calculations of the Mississippi Legislature,” U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves wrote.

A federal judge on Tuesday permanently blocked a Mississippi Republican law that would ban abortion after 15 weeks’ pregnancy, declaring the measure “unequivocally” unconstitutional.

HB 1510, known as the Mississippi Gestational Act, was enacted in March and bans abortion at 15 weeks, with a narrow exception for medical emergencies threatening the pregnant person or if there is a “severe” fetal anomaly. The measure had been temporarily blocked since March after advocates sued. Tuesday’s order makes that March ruling permanent. 

As a result of Tuesday’s decision, a nearly identical 15-week ban passed by Republican lawmakers in Louisiana will not go into effect. That law’s effective date depended on the outcome of the lawsuit challenging Mississippi’s 15-week ban.

The decision reaffirms that viability is the constitutional standard to judge these types of abortion restrictions, and that at 15 weeks, a fetus is not viable and therefore the state cannot ban abortion care at that point. U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves took lawmakers to task for the law in a strongly worded opinion that said the ban was obviously unconstitutional but that Mississippi lawmakers enacted it anyway. 

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“The Court’s frustration, in part, is that other states have already unsuccessfully litigated the same sort of ban that is before this Court and the State is aware that this type of litigation costs the taxpayers a tremendous amount of money,” Reeves wrote. “No, the real reason we are here is simple. The State chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to endorse a decades-long campaign, fueled by national interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.”

“This Court follows the commands of the Supreme Court and the dictates of the United States Constitution, rather than the disingenuous calculations of the Mississippi Legislature,” Reeves wrote. 

Reeves dismissed the GOP-held Mississippi legislature’s claims that the measure was designed to protect “women’s health” as “pure gaslighting.” 

Reeves noted that there is a “sad irony” to the fact that men, who face no risk of pregnancy, are dictating the reproductive rights of others. 

“The fact that men, myself included, are determining how women may choose to manage their reproductive health is a sad irony not lost on the Court,” Reeves wrote. “As Sarah Weddington argued to the nine men on the Supreme Court in 1971 when representing ‘Jane Roe,’ ‘a pregnancy to a woman is perhaps one of the most determinative aspects of her life.’ As a man, who cannot get pregnant or seek an abortion, I can only imagine the anxiety and turmoil a woman might experience when she decides whether to terminate her pregnancy through an abortion.”

“Respecting her autonomy demands that this statute be enjoined,” he continued.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, the advocacy organization that helped challenge the measure, called the decision a “wake-up call for state lawmakers who are continuously trying to chip away at abortion access.”

Attorneys for the state of Mississippi have not said yet if they will appeal the decision.

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