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Federal appeals court strikes down Mississippi’s 15-week abortion law



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A federal appeals court has struck down Mississippi’s 15-week abortion law as unconstitutional.

The ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, is widely seen as a blow to those seeking to restrict or end abortion in the U.S.

The Mississippi law was passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Phil Bryant in 2018. It banned almost all abortions 15 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual cycle, except for medical emergencies or cases of severe fetal abnormality. No exceptions were included for rape or incest.

In November 2018, the federal district court in Jackson blocked the law, and now an appeal has also failed. None of the bans passed by Mississippi or eight other states this year have gone into effect. Most have been blocked by federal judges.

“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. 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 law at issue is a ban. Thus, we affirm the district court’s invalidation of the law,” the ruling states.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, headquartered in New York City, sued to block the law on behalf of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which is the only abortion clinic in the state.

“With this ruling, Mississippi—and other states trying to put abortion out of reach—should finally get the message,” said the center’s Senior Staff Attorney Hillary Schneller in a statement. “Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars to defend multiple abortion bans that won’t stand up in court, they should be working on other issues—like addressing the state’s alarming maternal mortality rates.”

America’s Health Rankings 2019 report ranked Mississippi last in the U.S. for the health of women and children in the state. Its maternal mortality rate, at about 22 deaths per 100,000 births, is above the national average of 18 deaths, and it ranks No. 15 overall. African American women die at almost two and a half times the state’s average, however, with 51.9 deaths per 100,000.

During this year’s legislative session, Mississippi lawmakers passed an even more restrictive law, banning abortions after six weeks. That law was also challenged and was struck down in federal court in May.

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