Judge Blocks Mississippi ‘Heartbeat’ Abortion Law

ultrasound fetal heartbeat
Jennifer Jacobs/AFP/Getty Images

A federal judge has temporarily blocked a Mississippi law that bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually at the sixth or seventh week of pregnancy.

The law was scheduled to go into effect July 1.

“Here we go again,” wrote U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves, an Obama-era appointee, in his opinion. “Mississippi has passed another law banning abortions prior to viability.”

The judge noted the same plaintiffs had successfully challenged Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban last year.

Reeves continued:

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 lmp. If a fetus is not viable at 15 weeks lmp, it is not viable at 6 weeks lmp.

The judge said the law “threatens immediate harm to women’s rights … and would force the clinic to stop providing most abortion care.”

Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates celebrated the decision:

The law would amend Mississippi code to provide that “a physician performing an abortion on a pregnant woman before determining if the unborn human individual has a detectable fetal heartbeat is subject to license revocation or disciplinary action.”

The legislation provides an exemption for medical emergencies.

The case is Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Thomas E. Dobbs, No. 3:18-cv-171-CWR-FKB in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Mississippi.

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