March 13, 2014 — The Mississippi Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill (HB 1400) that would ban most abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy, after changing the measure to define pregnancy as beginning at the end of a woman's last menstrual period, the AP/Washington Times reports (Amy, AP/Washington Times, 3/11).
The bill, which passed the state House last month, states that physicians convicted of violating the ban could lose their license to practice. The measure includes exceptions for severe fetal anomalies or if a physician determines that a pregnancy endangers a woman's life (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/18).
The bill originally calculated pregnancy as beginning when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus, which would have banned abortion after 20 weeks.
The new language was revealed during Senate debate on Tuesday without being uploaded in advance to the chamber's computer system. According to the AP/Times, it is atypical for a bill to be changed before the full chamber without a committee first approving the new language.
State Sen. Joey Fillingane (R) said the language was given to state lawmakers on Friday after antiabortion-rights groups expressed concern that the original language could have allowed abortions after 20 weeks if the post-conception definition was used. The language was given to lawmakers after the deadline for committee action.
Because of the change, the measure will proceed to a House-Senate conference.
Fillingane told the AP that the change would align the bill with similar laws in Louisiana and Texas. However, an AP review of the Louisiana and Texas laws shows that the change actually distances the measure from those laws and aligns it more with an Arizona law that has been ruled unconstitutional by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Still, Fillingane said he would welcome a court challenge if the Mississippi measure becomes law and predicted that the more conservative Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals would likely uphold it.
Planned Parenthood Southeast lobbyist Felicia Brown-Williams said the bill, like the Arizona measure, is unconstitutional (AP/Washington Times, 3/11).