February 28, 2018 10:17:15 AM
JACKSON -- Mississippi is one step closer to enacting what could become the nation's most restrictive abortion law.
A state Senate committee on Tuesday passed House Bill 1510, which would make abortions illegal at 15 weeks into gestation. The bill moves to the full Senate for more discussion.
The only exceptions to the limit are if the fetus could not survive outside of the womb at full term, or if the pregnant woman's life or a "major bodily function" is threatened by the pregnancy. This is the same exception written into Mississippi's current abortion law.
Cases of rape and incest are not written as exceptions, as in Mississippi's current 20-week law.
Mississippi already ties with North Carolina for the nation's shortest abortion term, limiting abortions to 20 weeks since a woman's last menstruation.
In a letter to Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves obtained by The Associated Press, The Center for Reproductive Rights called the bill unconstitutional, "medically unsound" and dangerous to Mississippi women's health.
"If enacted, the bill would violate four decades of unwavering Supreme Court precedent holding that a state may not ban abortion prior to viability," the pro-choice women's advocacy organization wrote.
Diane Derzis, who owns Mississippi's only abortion clinic in Jackson, told the AP in January that she believes Mississippi is intending on taking the law -- if passed -- to the Supreme Court.
"I think the bill is clearly unconstitutional," she said. "I think that's part of the plan, to get as much anti-abortion legislation headed up through the court system, hoping by the time it gets there, there's another anti-choice justice."
Mississippi's current 20-week abortion limit has not yet been challenged in the Fifth Circuit Court.
While presenting the bill at Tuesday's committee hearing, Senator Joey Fillingane, a Republican from Sumrall, said although Mississippi would be the first in the country to pass a bill, he believes the bill is in line with the direction of the rest of the country.
The U.S. Senate failed to pass a similar 20-week abortion ban bill in January. With 60 'yes' votes required to pass, the bill failed at 51-46.
Fillingane said still, though, the majority of U.S. senators -- by one -- were for the restriction. And, he noted, a similar bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives in October 237-189.
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