State Abortion Ban Runs Into Federal Court

Mississippi had banned abortions at 15 weeks
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 14, 2019 3:30 PM CST
Court Rules on Mississippi Abortion Ban
In this Oct. 2, 2019 file photo, an abortion opponent sings to herself outside the Jackson Womens Health Organization clinic in Jackson, Miss.   (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

A federal appeals court declared Friday that Mississippi's ban on abortion at 15 weeks is unconstitutional, dealing a blow to those seeking to overturn the landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, the AP reports. The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals said US District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled correctly when he blocked the Mississippi law from taking effect in 2018. With the addition of conservative justices to the US Supreme Court in recent years, several states have been enacting laws aimed at spurring court challenges that could eventually seek to overturn the court's 1973 abortion rights ruling in Roe v. Wade. But the appeals court judges showed solidarity with Roe v. Wade, saying the Supreme Court has affirmed "a woman's right to choose."

Attorneys representing the state of Mississippi had argued that the 15-week law was a regulation but not a ban, and that states are allowed to regulate abortion. A central question in the case is about viability—whether a fetus can survive outside the woman at 15 weeks. The clinic presented evidence that viability is impossible at 15 weeks, and the appeals court said the state "conceded that it had identified no medical evidence that a fetus would be viable at 15 weeks." The only abortion clinic in Mississippi sued the state after Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed the law. The clinic said it provides abortions until 16 weeks. Mississippi legislators then passed law to ban most abortions at about six weeks. The same federal district judge blocked that, too, and a legal fight over it continues.

(More abortion stories.)

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