"As a man, who cannot get pregnant": Federal judge strikes down Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban

Judge Carlton Reeves is so over the state of Mississippi.
November 21, 2018, 8:04pm
Judge Carlton Reeves is so over the state of Mississippi.

Judge Carlton Reeves is so over the state of Mississippi.

On Tuesday, the federal judge found that a Mississippi law that sought to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy was unconstitutional and blocked it from taking effect. The law, which would have been one of the strictest abortion regulations in the country, was in effect for only hours in March before Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic sued to strike it down.

Reeves, who serves on the bench for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, initially issued a temporary injunction against the law, which forbid abortion even if the pregnancy is the result of incest or rape. But in his 17-page ruling on Tuesday, which made the injunction permanent, Reeves made his frustration with Mississippi blazingly clear.

“The fact that men, myself included, are determining how women may choose to manage their reproductive health is a sad irony not lost on the Court. As Sarah Weddington argued to the nine men on the Supreme Court in 1971 when representing ‘Jane Roe,’ ‘a pregnancy to a woman is perhaps one of the most determinative aspects of her life,’” Reeves wrote, in reference to the then-anonymous plaintiff whose quest for an abortion sparked Roe v. Wade.

“As a man, who cannot get pregnant or seek an abortion, I can only imagine the anxiety and turmoil a woman might experience when she decides whether to terminate her pregnancy through an abortion,” Reeves added in his opinion.

When Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Phil Bryant first signed the bill, he made it clear that he knew the state would be sued more or less instantly. He told people at the signing, “We’ll probably be sued here in about a half hour.”

“That’ll be fine with me,” he added.

Bryant’s office indicated Wednesday that the governor planned to challenge Reeves’ decision. His spokesperson told the Associated Press that Bryant “fully supports the defense of this law moving forward."

Reeves, however, was not shy about his suspicions about Bryant’s motives. “The State chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to endorse a decades-long campaign, fueled by national interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Reeves wrote. (The Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide through its 1973 decision in Roe.)

“Why are we here? Because the State of Mississippi contends that every court who ruled on a case such as this ‘misinterpreted or misapplied prior Supreme Court abortion precedent,’” Reeves went on. “Other states have already unsuccessfully litigated the same sort of ban that is before this Court and the State is aware that this type of litigation costs the taxpayers a tremendous amount of money.”

Reeves also took issue with Mississippi trying to defend the 15-week ban as a “regulation,” and wasn’t above using the thesaurus to make his point.

“The Act’s full title is ‘An Act to be Known As the Gestational Age Act; To Prohibit Abortions After 15 Weeks’ Gestation,’” Reeves wrote. “‘Ban’ and “prohibit’ are synonyms. This Act is a ban. It is not a regulation.”

Cover image: Clinic escorts Kim Gibson, left, and Derenda Hancock, second from left, and anti-abortion sidewalk counselors Beka Tate, second from right, and a woman who only gave her first name, Lauren, stand outside the Jackson Women's Health Organization's clinic, the only facility in the state that performs abortions, Tuesday, March 20, 2018 in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)