April 24, 2014 — Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) on Wednesday signed into law legislation (HB 1400) that bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Reuters reports. The law is scheduled to take effect on July 1 (Johnson, Reuters, 4/24).
The law includes exceptions for severe fetal abnormalities or if a physician determines that a pregnancy endangers a woman's life. Physicians convicted of violating the ban could lose their license to practice (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/2).
"Today is an important day for protecting the unborn and the health and safety of women in Mississippi," Bryant said (Reuters, 4/24).
According to AP/USA Today, several other states have 20-week bans, including Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.
Diane Derzis -- who owns the state's sole abortion clinic, Jackson Women's Health Organization-- said her clinic only offers abortion care through 16 weeks of pregnancy and thus would not be affected by the ban. She said that it was likely someone would file a challenge to the law.
Meanwhile, supporters of the law note that Mississippi is in a conservative federal appeals court district, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the law could survive a court challenge. According to AP/USA Today, the Supreme Court refused to consider a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Arizona's 20-week ban (HB 2036).
Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup said, "With the women and families of their state facing extreme poverty, unacceptable rates of maternal mortality, and skyrocketing teen pregnancy, Mississippi's elected officials have more than enough real work to do to bolster women's well-being in their state."
Northup added, "It's time for these politicians to stop passing laws that attack constitutionally protected women's health care and finally focus on policies that would support the health, lives and rights of Mississippi women and families."
Meanwhile, Americans United for Life President and CEO Charmaine Yoest said that the "health risks of abortion increase" with "each passing week of pregnancy," adding, "I commend the leadership in Mississippi who worked together to achieve commonsense limits on dangerous abortion procedures" (AP/USA Today, 4/23).