Mississippi 15 Week Abortion Ban: Deliberately Unconstitutional and Bad for Women
Yesterday, the Mississippi Legislature voted to pass House Bill 1510, which would ban abortion in the state 15 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period. It will now be sent to Governor Phil Bryant, who has been vocal about his support for the bill. The law would take effect immediately.
When Governor Bryant signs HB 1510, it will make Mississippi the first state to ban abortion at 15 weeks. Other bans on abortion at a particular point in pregnancy – such as a 6 week ban in North Dakota, a 12 week ban in Arkansas, and 20 week bans in Arizona and Idaho – have been struck down as unconstitutional. Many people’s first thoughts on HB 1510 might be: but isn’t this unconstitutional too? Yes. And that is the point.
Bans on abortion at a particular point in pregnancy – whether they are 6 weeks, 15 weeks, or 20 weeks, are unconstitutional on their face because they undermine a key provision of Roe v. Wade, which established that a woman has the constitutional right to decide whether to have an abortion before viability. And the Supreme Court also made clear that states can’t set a bright line for viability – it is left to each the physician to determine for each pregnancy. Many anti-abortion activists and politicians have utilized a long-term strategy to introduce and enact abortion bans at a particular point in pregnancy in order to force the Supreme Court to revisit – and they hope to overrule – Roe v. Wade.
Banning abortion in any state would have a dire impact on women’s health. But even making abortion more difficult to access has a detrimental effect. In Mississippi, home to numerous abortion restrictions, before getting an abortion, a women must receive biased counseling, delay her care a mandatory 24 hours, and receive an unnecessary ultrasound. Young women also need to get their parents’ consent. Women using a state-funded health plan will not have coverage for abortion, except in very limited circumstances.
These restrictions already make abortion access incredibly difficult in Mississippi. Only one clinic provides abortion care, and they battle constant threats and intimidation by politicians and protesters. Mississippi is also among the states with the fewest protections in place to support the economic security, opportunity, and equal treatment of women, and has the highest poverty rate in the country. The authors of HB 1510 claim that they are interested in protecting the health of pregnant women (while citing to numerous junk science claims and myths about abortion). But let’s be clear: HB 1510 will make things more difficult for Mississippi women, and endanger women’s health. If the Mississippi legislature truly cares about women, they should be trying to improve access to health care, not restrict it.