NEWS
25/05/2019 12:39 BST | Updated 25/05/2019 16:19 BST

Federal Judge Blocks Mississippi Abortion Law

US District Judge Carlton Reeves struck down a law that bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

A US district judge has blocked Mississippi’s restrictive abortion law, setting the stage for more court battles as conservative lawmakers continue to challenge Roe v. Wade. 

District Judge Carlton Reeves heard arguments on Tuesday over a request from Mississippi’s only remaining abortion clinic to prevent the law from going into effect on July 1.

The clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organisation, filed a lawsuit to block the law, which bans women from obtaining an abortion once a foetal heartbeat is detected.

Reeves previously struck down a law Mississippi enacted which would ban abortions after 15 weeks, writing in November that it “unequivocally” violated women’s constitutional rights.

The new law, signed in March by Republican Governor Phil Bryant, states that doctors who perform abortions after a foetal heartbeat is detected may have their state medical licenses revoked.

It allows exceptions only if the woman’s life is endangered by the pregnancy, and it does not include exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

Bryant tweeted Sunday that “a new national movement has begun.”

Mississippi is one of several states in the US Deep South and Midwest where lawmakers have recently passed or are poised to approve so-called “heartbeat bills.” A foetal heartbeat is typically detected at around six weeks into a pregnancy ― before many women know they’re pregnant.

Georgia, Ohio and Kentucky have also passed such laws, and Louisiana is close to passing one. Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed a bill criminalising abortions after a foetal heartbeat is detected.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey recently signed the nation’s strictest abortion bill, making it a serious crime in the state for a doctor to perform an abortion unless the pregnant woman’s life is in danger. 

Lawmakers sponsoring the abortion bans have signalled that their ultimate goal is to spark court challenges in hopes that the Supreme Court may overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which legalised abortion.