The Mississippi 6-Week Abortion Ban Will Set Off Yet Another Huge Legal Battle
On Thursday, the governor of Mississippi signed a six-week abortion ban into law, joining a number of states who have pushed for so-called "heartbeat bills" that ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Per The New York Times, the bill will take effect in July if there's no intervention from the courts — but you can pretty much guarantee there will be. Numerous organizations supporting abortion rights are already signaling their willingness to combat this bill.
In a statement at the signing on Thursday, Republican Governor Phil Bryant said, via The New York Times, that a heartbeat is "the universal hallmark of life since man’s very beginning." He continued, "We’re going to try to protect that child whenever we can. We think that this is showing the profound respect and desire of Mississippians to protect the sanctity of that very unborn life whenever possible."
The "heartbeat bill" is especially controversial for a number of reasons. First, the science behind fetal cardiac activity does not factually support the arguments used to bolster these bills. Multiple scientists explained to HuffPost that fetal heartbeats are not necessarily indicative of a fully developed organ, nor is cardiac activity a scientifically credible way to determine the viability of a fetus; the publication offers a comprehensive breakdown of how flawed the "science" is behind this bill.
In addition to that flawed science, many women don't even know they're pregnant at six weeks, to begin with. According to the American Pregnancy Association, most women discover they're pregnant between four and seven weeks. This means that the best-case scenario for many women would be to have two weeks to decide their future, and the worst-case scenario could mean that a women would find out she was in the early stages of pregnancy, but it would already be too late to access a legal abortion in the state of Mississippi.
Hillary Schneller, a staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said (via The Hill), “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."
But just as abortion rights activists have signaled their willingness to fight the law, supporters of the "heartbeat bill" have done the same. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, the Mississippi Republican who The New York Times asserts is a candidate to replace Bryant as the next governor, has stated his intention to support the bill, both legally and financially, should a battle take place. Per the publication, he said:
There have been threats of lawsuits, and I’m sure that’s going to happen, and that’s okay...I have absolutely no problem supporting strongly whatever it costs to defend this lawsuit because I care about unborn children.
As CNN notes, the states of Ohio, Georgia, and Tennessee are all actively considering "heartbeat bills" within their state legislature — but the long-term goal for many of these GOP lawmakers is much bigger than the bill itself. Per the Associated Press, the partial goal of supporters of the fetal "heartbeat bill" is to eventually trigger a legal battle at the highest court in the land. With a conservative-leaning majority on the bench, Republicans are hopeful they can bring about a reversal of Roe v. Wade from the Supreme Court.
In response to the possibility of a legal battle, the Center for Reproductive Rights tweeted out a simple battle cry, which read in part, "We'll see you in court Mississippi."