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Federal judge blocks Mississippi’s ‘heartbeat’ abortion law

Photo courtesy of Telesouth Communications Inc.

A federal judge has blocked Mississippi’s “heartbeat bill” from taking effect. 

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves wrote that the bill, which would prohibit abortion in Mississippi as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, “threatens immediate harm to women’s rights”. 

After the bill was signed into law by Governor Bryant in March, a lawsuit was immediately filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Jackson Women’s Health Organization – the state’s lone abortion clinic. 

In court earlier this week, the JWHO argued that the new law would effectively ban abortion in Mississippi because most women don’t know that they are pregnant when a fetal heartbeat can first be detected, which is typically around 6 weeks.

After he decided not to announce a ruling in court, Judge Reeves has now granted a temporary injunction, and he wrote that the law would’ve prevented a woman’s “free choice.”

“S.B. 2116 prevents a woman’s free choice, which is central to personal dignity and autonomy.”

This is the second time in as many years that the state has been taken to court over the possible implementation of a strict abortion ban.

“Here we go again,” Reeves wrote at the beginning of his ruling. 

In 2018, the legislature passed a 15-week abortion ban, and following a lawsuit, Reeves ruled that the law was unconstitutional. 

“This Court previously found the 15-week ban to be an unconstitutional violation of substantive due process because the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that women have the right to choose an abortion prior to viability, and a fetus is not viable at 15 weeks If a fetus is not viable at 15 weeks it is not viable at 6 weeks.”

Following today’s ruling, the CRR tweeted that they will continue to fight as similar and stricter bills have been passed in Georgia and Alabama.

Mississippi’s bill did not include exceptions for incest or rape. An abortion could only be performed if the mother’s life was at risk.

The bill was set become law on July 1st.

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