Mississippi Senate Passes 15-Week Abortion Ban Designed To Launch Roe Challenge

The Mississippi state Senate passed a 15-week abortion ban today, which would become the most stringent abortion ban in the country if it becomes law. Gov. Phil Bryant has indicated that he will sign the bill if it is passed by the state House.

The AP reports:

The only exceptions to the 15-week cutoff in the bill are a woman’s medical emergency related to the pregnancy or a medical abnormality that makes the fetus “incompatible with life.” There are no exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

Senators amended the bill to take out possible felony charges for physicians who perform abortions later than 15 weeks. Those who do abortions after that limit would have their professional medical licenses suspended or revoked.

As we reported in January, the Mississippi bill is part of a strategy being promoted by the Religious Right legal group Alliance Defending Freedom to “bait” abortion rights advocates into a lawsuit that they hope will work its way through favorable courts. Peter reported on the comments of ADF attorney Denise Burke, the former legal affairs vice president for Americans United for Life, at an Evangelicals for Life event:

“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.”

When Salon’s Amanda Marcotte asked ADF to what extent it had been involved in the Mississippi law, a spokesman replied only that “From time to time, lawmakers ask ADF attorneys to review the constitutionality of proposed legislation.”