Mississippi abortion bill limits abortion after 15 weeks
Credit: Andrew Holbrooke/Corbis via Getty Images

The United States’ reproductive health laws may not have reached the regressive policies seen in The Handmaid’s Tale, but reproductive rights continue to be challenged. In the past year, for example, President Donald Trump has rolled back Obama-era reproductive health laws, including a mandate that employers cover birth control in their health insurance plans. And now, a new Mississippi abortion bill would make any abortion after 15 weeks illegal, including in cases of rape or incest.

Mississippi’s state legislature passed the bill yesterday, March 8th — aka International Women’s Day. Now, it is waiting for a signature from Governor Phil Bryant, whose office has announced that he will approve the bill next week. Once Bryant signs the bill, it will become the most restrictive abortion law in the country.

Mississippi currently bans abortion after 20 weeks, and there is only one abortion clinic in the state. Under the new law, abortions after 15 weeks would only be permitted if the pregnant patient’s life was at risk or if the fetus would never be able to survive outside of the womb.

Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade court decision, the Supreme Court has maintained that states cannot ban abortions that take place before a fetus can survive outside the womb. Because of this, the new Mississippi abortion law will likely be challenged in court. Diane Derzis, the owner of Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, told Mississippi newspaper the Clarion Ledger that she was planning to sue over the new law.

Limiting access to legal, safe abortion doesn’t actually decrease the number of abortions. El Salvador made abortion illegal in 1997, and Amnesty International found that the change in laws did not result in fewer abortions. Instead, women sought illegal abortions, and as many as 11 percent of women who obtained these outlawed procedures died. The new Mississippi abortion bill is worrisome because it could also cause the number of unsafe abortions to increase. But beyond that, abortion is a personal choice, and no state should be able to decide whether or not it’s legal. We stand by the women of Mississippi and their right to choose.