'Heartbeat bill'

Under Mississippi’s new abortion law, by the time women realize they’re pregnant it could be too late

Phil Bryant, governor of Mississippi, takes to the stage during an election night party for Republican U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith in Jackson, Mississippi, U.S., November 27, 2018. (REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman)

Mississippi governor Phil Bryant signed a so-called “heartbeat bill” into law on Thursday that would ban abortions once doctors are able to detect a fetal heartbeat — effectively outlawing the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Reproductive rights activists have decried the bill as a flagrant violation of Roe v. Wade. In some cases, they say, heartbeat bills would bar women’s access to abortion before they even realized they were pregnant.

“This ban is one of the most restrictive abortion bans signed into law, and we will take Mississippi to court to make sure it never takes effect,” said Hillary Schneller, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Similar heartbeat bills have already been passed and blocked by judges in states like Kentucky and Iowa, but the recent addition of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has emboldened anti-abortion advocates who hope the court’s conservative justices will overturn past precedent on abortion law.

Around 10 other states are currently debating their own heartbeat bills. The Georgia house approved one such bill earlier this month, and Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas are all expected to pass their own heartbeat laws later this year. Conservatives have also increasingly been taking up “trigger laws,” such as one passed in Arkansas last month, that would ban abortion at the state level immediately if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

Mississippi, which is among at least seven states to have only one abortion clinic remaining due to laws targeting providers of the procedure, passed a law last year that banned all abortions outright after 15 weeks. A federal judge blocked the law from taking effect, and the state has appealed the decision. Should Mississippi win its case, an identical law in Louisiana would also take effect.

Read the full story at the New York Times.

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