Just one day after Mississippi’s governor signed a law banning abortions after 15 weeks, a federal judge issued an order temporarily blocking it.
District Judge Carlton Reeves issued a temporary restraining order Tuesday, blocking the law from taking effect for 10 days while the court considers further action.
“The law threatens immediate, irreparable harm to Mississippians’ abilities to control their ‘destiny and … body,’ ” Reeves wrote, citing another ruling. “A brief delay in enforcing a law of dubious constitutionality does not outweigh that harm, and in fact serves the public’s interest in preserving the freedom guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”
House Bill 1510 was signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant on Monday, making Mississippi the state with the earliest abortion ban in the nation.
The same day, the nonprofit Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law, which had gone into effect immediately. It also asked the court to block the ban, a particularly urgent request because a woman was scheduled to have a 15-week abortion Tuesday afternoon.
Bryant called the temporary restraining order “disappointing.”
“House Bill 1510 protects maternal health and will further our efforts to make Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child. We are confident in its constitutionality and look forward to vigorously defending it,” he said in a statement.
The Center for Reproductive Rights maintains that the law violates “longstanding Supreme Court precedent.”
“By banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, the law violates decades of well-established, clear precedent under the U.S. Constitution. Courts have consistently struck down similar bans on abortion before viability as unconstitutional,” the center said in a statement.
House Bill 1510 is also known as the Gestational Age Act. It makes exceptions only for medical emergencies or cases in which there’s a “severe fetal abnormality.” There are no exceptions for incidents of rape or incest.
The law also requires doctors who perform abortions after 15 weeks to submit reports detailing the circumstances of each case. If they knowingly violate the law, their medical licenses will be suspended or revoked in Mississippi. If they falsify records, they will face civil penalties or be forced to pay fines of up to $500.
Mississippi is among a small handful of states with only one remaining clinic that provides abortion services: in this case, Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Although Mississippi was already among the states with a 20-week ban, until the enactment of this latest bill, the cutoff time for abortions at the Jackson clinic was 16 weeks.