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Mississippi lawmakers approve 20-week abortion ban

[JURIST] The Mississippi Legislature [official website] on Tuesday passed a bill [text] that bans abortions from being performed beyond 20 weeks after a woman's last menstrual period, or 18 weeks of pregnancy. The bill, which grants an exception [AP report] for cases where pregnancy would endanger the life of the mother but not for victims of rape or incest, is very similar to an Arizona bill that was struck down [AP report] by a federal appeals court last year. The Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade [Cornell LII backgrounder] declares that states cannot ban abortions before the fetus becomes viable, which is not believed to occur until around 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy. While the state's governor, Phil Bryant [official website], has called the measure a great effort to protect the unborn in Mississippi, opponents of the ban have called it politically motivated and say that it does nothing for women's health. An amendment to the bill by Senator Joey Fillingane [official profile] that begins the 20-week count after a woman's period makes the measure more extreme than those in other states. A similar bill was vetoed [JURIST report] in West Virginia last week.

The controversy surrounding the house bill and Mississippi's only abortion clinic has persisted for several years. In February the Mississippi House of Representatives approved a measure [JURIST report] banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. In 2013 a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi extended an injunction [JURIST report] blocking Mississippi from revoking the license of the state's only abortion clinic. Earlier that year a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi issued a temporary injunction [JURIST report] blocking the law. Also in 2013, the abortion clinic in Mississippi filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi challenging the regulation [JURIST report] that was scheduled to go into effect. In 2005 a federal judge in Mississippi ruled that Mississippi's law restricting abortions [JURIST report] performed after the first-trimester violates the Fourteenth Amendment.

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