Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) has signed into law an abortion ban that would restrict a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy after six weeks.
The supposed reasoning behind the ban revolves around the notion of a fetal heartbeat. The idea being that if a heartbeat can be detected by a doctor, abortion is illegal. The one exception being if the woman's life is in danger.
A medic in violation of these conditions, the bill states, could then have their medical license revoked.
Fetal heartbeat can usually be detected from six to eight weeks of pregnancy, sometimes before a woman is even aware she is pregnant. It is considerably earlier than the 24-week threshold accepted by most of the country.
But Mississippi isn't the first to introduce one of these so-called "heartbeat bills". It is just the latest in a string of efforts made by certain GOP legislators in certain states to wind back women's reproductive rights to the pre-Roe v. Wade era.
Only last Friday, the Georgia Senate passed an almost identical bill. Texas, Kentucky, Iowa, and more have attempted similar. Meanwhile, Ohio, Tennessee, and others have introduced trigger laws that would ban abortions outright if ever Roe v. Wade was revoked.
Down in the Sunshine State, legislators have come to the mind-boggling conclusion that teens too "immature" to have an abortion are mature enough to raise their own child.
Still, just because the bill has been signed into law, ready to come into effect from July, it doesn't mean it will stick. Reproductive rights groups have already announced plans to take it to court.
"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," Hillary Schneller, a staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, said in a statement.
"This ban – just like the 15-week ban the Governor signed a year ago – is cruel and clearly unconstitutional."
Schneller et al have good grounds to be hopeful that they should be successful. That 15-week ban she mentioned was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge only last year. Meanwhile, judges in Kentucky and Iowa have blocked or overturned similar heartbeat laws in their respective states.
Legality aside, it has become increasingly difficult for women in the state to access safe abortions from a practical standpoint. For the last eight years, there has been just one clinic offering the service, the Pink Clinic, which is almost constantly hounded by pro-life protestors.
On top of a long waiting list, women have to meet a set of stringent criteria before they can go through with the procedure. This includes a state-mandated counseling session, an ultrasound, and a 24-hour wait period. Under-18s must also obtain consent from their parents or a court.
"In short, it is already nearly impossible to get an abortion in Mississippi," said Kelly Krause, a Center for Reproductive Rights spokeswoman, the Washington Post reports.
"And this law acts as an outright ban given all the other laws."
Advocates of the bill have been very open in their admissions that laws like these are attempts to challenge the legal precedent set by Roe v. Wade. Indeed, many hope that a case will be brought before the Supreme Court, which they feel is now more sympathetic to their cause since the addition of Brett Kavanaugh.
Ironically, in the case of Mississippi, Bryant's mission to "fight for the lives of innocent babies" doesn't appear to extend to babies outside the womb.
Mississippi holds the unenviable title of highest infant mortality rate and second-highest child mortality rate in the US, Ashton Pittman, a reporter at the Jackson Free Press, tweeted. While clinical care for youngsters comes in at number 50 (out of 50).