A federal judge has temporarily blocked a new law in Mississippi that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, the strictest limit in the nation.
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves on Tuesday granted a request for a temporary restraining order by the state’s sole abortion clinic. On Monday, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1510, codifying the ban into law.
Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, and The Center for Reproductive Rights quickly sued for a restraining order to block the law.
Rob McDuff, the clinic’s attorney, said in a court hearing on Tuesday that a woman who is at least 15 weeks pregnant was scheduled for an abortion that day, according to The Associated Press.
Special assistant attorney general Paul Barnes countered that the state should prioritize protecting maternal health and “unborn life.”
The bill passed in both chambers of the Mississippi legislature on March 8, which was also International Women’s Day. The law has no exceptions for rape and incest victims, but does exempt women whose lives are endangered by the pregnancy or whose fetuses would not survive the pregnancy.
Abortion is already extremely difficult to access in Mississippi. The state is one of 17 in the country that bans abortions at 20 weeks. Arkansas tried to ban the procedure at 12 weeks, but a federal appeals court ruled the law unconstitutional and blocked it in 2015.
Reproductive rights advocates have argued that even the 20-week ban is unconstitutional on the basis of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, which said a state cannot impose an undue burden on a woman’s ability to have an abortion until the fetus would be able to survive outside the womb. Doctors set viability at roughly 22-24 weeks.
In a statement on Tuesday, The Center for Reproductive Rights argued that Mississippi was violating that Supreme Court precedent in passing the 15-week ban.
“By banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, the law violates decades of well-established, clear precedent under the U.S. Constitution,” the center said. “Courts have consistently struck down similar bans on abortion before viability as unconstitutional.”