Federal appeals court blocks Mississippi 15-week abortion ban, calls it unconstitutional

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A federal appeals court on Friday blocked Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, handing a defeat to advocates seeking to impose bans on the procedure across the country.

The ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling from a district court that blocked the ban from going into effect in 2018.

“In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed, and re-affirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability,” the appeals court judges wrote. “States may regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they do not impose an undue burden on the woman’s right but they may not ban abortions.”

The only abortion clinic in Mississippi launched the suit against the state government after Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed the rule into law. The clinic said it only provides abortions until 16 weeks into a pregnancy, according to The Associated Press.

The law made exceptions in cases of a medical emergency that threatened the mother or “a severe fetal abnormality” that would have prevented the fetus surviving outside of the womb but did not include exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

State lawmakers tried in 2019 to pass a stricter ban that prohibited abortions at six weeks into a pregnancy, though the same district court judge blocked that rule as well. A court battle over that law is still ongoing.

Mississippi already has some of the strictest abortion laws in the nation, including requirements that a woman seeking an abortion must receive counseling before doing so and wait 24 hours afterwards before undergoing the procedure.

Mississippi’s 15-week rule is one of several that conservative legislatures across the nation have passed in recent years. Advocates say the campaign is intended in part to spark a Supreme Court battle that they hope could lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that first legalized abortion nationwide.

None of the statewide abortion restrictions has taken effect, with some being blocked in court and others being put on hold while court challenges play out.

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