Tuesday night, Alabama legislators passed the strictest abortion ban in the country. The new law does not allow exceptions for rape or incest. It also punishes doctors who perform abortions in the state with a possible 99-year prison sentence.
In March, Gov. Phil Bryant signed a similar law, known as the “heartbeat bill,” banning abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can come as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Like the Alabama law, the heartbeat bill does not allow exceptions for rape or incest.
In 2018, Mississippi banned abortions after 15 weeks but the law was struck down in federal court. State Attorney General Jim Hood filed papers in April, on behalf of the state, to appeal the ruling.
Like the 15-week ban, the heartbeat bill is being challenged in court.
Here’s what you need to know:
What is the ban?
Abortions would be banned in Mississippi once a fetal heartbeat is detected, around six weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she’s pregnant. The House and Senate both rejected efforts to allow exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. The law does allow an exception if the pregnancy endangers a woman’s life or one of her major body functions.
The Mississippi law says a physician who performs an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected could face revocation of his or her state medical license.
Of the legislation, Bryant previously said, “We think this is showing the profound respect and desire of Mississippians to protect the sanctity of that unborn life whenever possible.
“It also protects, we believe, the physical and mental health of the mother. We here in Mississippi believe in protecting and defending the whole life of that child.”
When does it take effect?
July 1. However, the law is being challenged in federal court by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The hearing will be held Tuesday at 9 a.m.
If the court rules against the state, the ban will not go into effect. If that happens, the state is likely to appeal.
Can you currently get an abortion in Mississippi?
Yes. Again, the ban does not take effect until July 1. Mississippi has one abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, located in Jackson.
What’s happened with prior lawsuits?
U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves struck down the state’s 15-week abortion ban law in November, saying it “unequivocally” violates a woman’s constitutional rights.
In his decision, Reeves wrote that “Mississippi’s law violates Supreme Court precedent, and in doing so it disregards the 14th Amendment guarantee of autonomy for women desiring to control their own reproductive health.”
How does Mississippi’s ban compare to other states?
Kentucky’s governor signed a similar bill into law in March, the New York Times reported, and a federal judge temporarily blocked it just hours later, ruling it was “potentially unconstitutional.”
In April, Ohio also passed a heartbeat abortion ban. The ban does allow exceptions in cases of rape or incest. Wednesday, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood filed suit against the state, challenging the ban, CBS News reported.
In May, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill into law that would make abortions illegal a hearbeat is detected. It will not go into effect until 2020.
A heartbeat abortion ban was also moving through Louisiana’s state Legislature this week, and the state’s governor indicated he would sign it.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.