Federal Judge Blocks Mississippi Abortion Law

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves struck down a law that bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

A U.S. district judge on Friday blocked Mississippi’s restrictive abortion law, setting the stage for more court battles as conservative lawmakers continue to challenge Roe v. Wade. 

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves heard arguments on Tuesday over a request from Mississippi’s only remaining abortion clinic to prevent the law from going into effect on July 1.

The clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, filed a lawsuit to block the law, which bans women from obtaining an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Reeves previously struck down a law Mississippi enacted banning abortions after 15 weeks, writing in November that it “unequivocally” violated women’s constitutional rights.

The new law, which Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed in March, states that physicians who perform abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected may have their state medical licenses revoked. It permits exceptions only if the woman’s life is endangered by the pregnancy, and it does not include exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

Bryant tweeted Sunday that “a new national movement has begun.”

Mississippi is one of several states in the Deep South and Midwest where lawmakers have recently passed or are poised to approve so-called “heartbeat bills.” A fetal heartbeat is typically detected at around six weeks into a pregnancy ― before many women know they’re pregnant.

Georgia, Ohio and Kentucky have also passed such laws, and Louisiana is close to passing one. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) is signed a bill criminalizing abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) recently signed the nation’s strictest abortion bill, making it a felony in the state for a doctor to perform an abortion unless the pregnant woman’s life is in danger. 

Lawmakers sponsoring the abortion bans have signaled that their ultimate goal is to spark court challenges in hopes that the Supreme Court may overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.