According to the Associated Press, Mississippi's only abortion clinic has filed a lawsuit against the House Bill 1510, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant on Monday afternoon. The law effectively bans women from getting abortions after they are 15 weeks pregnant. At this moment, Mississippi has the earliest ban on abortion throughout the country.
The clinic, known as Jackson Women's Health Organization, is the state's only abortion clinic, though it was so badly vandalized in 2015 that it almost shut down too. The organization has been clear about its stance on the 15-week abortion ban bill and shared a post on Mar. 13 on Facebook. It said,
Once this bill is signed into law and challenged, the state of Mississippi (the poorest state in the nation) will spend a fortune of its taxpayers' dollars on this legal battle. The law will eventually be rendered unconstitutional. In the meantime, health care, infrastructure, education remain unfunded.
According to the AP, the organization's lawsuit is being presented by the Center of Reproductive Rights and was filed in Jackson, Mississippi. Wasting no time, the clinic's administration along with one of the physicians who performs abortion services there, filed the lawsuit only an hour after Bill 1510 became law, per the AP.
The crux of the lawsuit claims that the move is unconstitutional. According to the clinic, a total 2,500 abortions were performed at Jackson Women's Health Organization in 2017. Out of those 2,500, the clinic says 78 were pregnancies terminated at 15 weeks or above. The lawsuit argues that the bill is unconstitutional as it attacks American women's constitutional right to terminating a fetus before it has a viable life out of the womb.
Diane Derzis, who owns Jackson Women's Health Organization, told The New York Times that Bryant's approved measure already had its first victim: a young woman recently seeking to terminate her pregnancy after the 15 week mark. Due on Tuesday for an abortion, Derzis said,
She’s the first casualty of this bill. That’s the saddest thing of all. We’re not talking about an issue here. We’re talking about people. This is a decision she made to better her life, and we’ve totally interfered with that.
The strict law allows abortion under one condition and that is only if the pregnancy poses a direct and identifiable threat to the health of the mother. Pregnancies resulting out of incest and rape are not allowed exemptions. Gov. Bryant proudly tweeted on Monday about signing the bill into law and said, "I was proud to sign House Bill 1510 this afternoon. I am committed to making Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child, and this bill will help us achieve that goal." In response to Bryant's tweet, some observers criticized the governor. One Twitter user said, "What do you do to protect children after they are born? Do you maintain access to health care, provide supportive educational programs, etc? If not, you are not pro-life."
Mississippi's American Civil Liberties Union chapter spoke on the development as well. Katherine Klein, who works with the state's ACLU branch, told The New York Times that she was optimistic that the law would be challenged and ultimately removed. "The governor is signing a clearly unconstitutional bill that’s just going to waste taxpayer money in the inevitable litigation that is to come," Klein noted.
To make matters even worse, Mississippi also has the highest rate of income inequality in the country. Now, advocacy groups fear new restrictions on abortion could intensify these inequalities.