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Federal lawsuit filed after Mississippi governor signs strict abortion law

[JURIST] Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant on Monday signed into law the country's strictest abortion law, prompting Mississippi's only abortion clinic to file a lawsuit [text, PDF] in the US District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi [official website] challenging the Act's constitutionality and requesting it be immediately blocked.

The Gestational Age Act [text, PDF] bans abortions when the fetus is 15 weeks or older, even though the current age of viability for a fetus is 16 weeks. This law directly challenges federal court rulings, which have held that abortions may be banned for fetuses once they have reached the age of viability. The law does provide exceptions but only in medical emergencies or cases of severe fetal abnormalities, and not for cases of rape or incest. Physicians and professionals who violate the law may be subject to sanctions and civil penalties.

Hours after Bryant signed the Bill, the Jackson Women's Health Organization and one of its physicians, who represents herself and her patients, filed a lawsuit directly challenging the Act's constitutionality. The plaintiffs claim the statute violates patients' liberty rights and rights to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment, saying it reinforces "outmoded stereotypes of women's role in society." The plaintiffs request for declaratory judgment that the Act is unconstitutional, along with a preliminary and permanent injunction and an order prohibiting the state from enforcing the Act's penalty provisions upon physicians while the preliminary injunction is in effect.

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