Mississippi Legislators Introduce Test Abortion Ban Meant To Lead To End Of Roe

Mississippi state capitol building (Wikimedia Commons)

Yesterday, Peter reported on a weekend session of the Evangelicals for Life conference at which two top attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom laid out their strategy to “eradicate Roe” by carefully placing increasingly stringent abortion laws in state legislatures in areas where they believe courts will allow them to chip away at legal protections for abortion and ultimately ban the procedure.

The next step after the recent wave of state-level 20-week abortion bans, they said, was attempting to “bait” pro-choice activists into lawsuits with 15-week abortion bans in states where “we think the governors and the A.G.s and the legislatures are going to do the best job at defending these laws.” The said they were starting in Mississippi:

“We got abortion on demand in this country because of a bunch of lies that the court bought, that the media bought, and we have to work very, very hard to dispel those lies,” [ADF attorney Denise] Burke said. ADF’s strategy to “take those legs out from under Roe, one by one” relies on building the case that abortion is bad for women and drawing on ultrasounds and medical advances in the understanding of fetal development to convince courts to allow greater restrictions and then bans on abortion.

“And we are focusing right now on two specific types of abortion bans,” Burke said. “So we’re not looking at regulation, we’re actually looking to enact abortion bans.” The first step, she said, is to enact state bans on abortion after 15 weeks into a pregnancy, which essentially limits abortion to the first trimester. She said that most of the 20-week bans passed at the state level have not been challenged in court, because the “abortion industry” fears a bad decision. With a 15-week limit, she said, “we’re kind of basically baiting them—come on, fight us on turf that we have already set up and established.”

Burke said the first 15-week legislation had just been introduced in Mississippi, adding that “we have very carefully targeted states based on where we think the courts are the best, where we think the governors and the A.G.s and the legislatures are going to do the best job at defending these laws.”

She said, “once we get these first-trimester limitations in place, we’re going to go for a complete ban on abortion except to save the life of the mother.”

Sure enough, on Thursday, Mississippi state Rep. Becky Currie introduced the “Gestational Age Act,” a bill to ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy “except in medical emergency or in the case of a severe fetal abnormality.” Currie’s bill was followed yesterday by two seemingly identical bills from state Sens. Angela Burks Hill and Joey Fillingane. The proposals would make performing most abortions after 15 weeks—shortly after the end of the first trimester—a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The new bills in Mississippi that are apparently being championed by ADF differ from a recent spate of bills championed by the National Right to Life Committee that ban a specific procedure, dilation and evacuation, that is the most common method of second-trimester abortion. One of these bills was signed into law last year by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and was partly struck down by a federal judge.