Mississippi Is 'Gaslighting' Women with Its Abortion Ban, Says Federal Judge

A federal judge struck down a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks, writing in his decision that the state's supposed concern for women's health is a sham.

by Marie Solis
Nov 21 2018, 3:50pm

A federal judge struck down a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks in a scathing ruling on Tuesday, accusing the state of "gaslighting" women and attempting to control their bodies.

"The record is clear: States may not ban abortions prior to viability," US District Judge Carlton Reeves wrote in his decision.

"So, why are we here?" he continued. "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.' In that spirit, this Court concludes that the Mississippi Legislature’s professed interest in ‘women’s health’ is pure gaslighting.”

He went on to say that the 15-week ban proved Mississippi was "bent on controlling women and minorities."

Republican Governor Phil Bryant signed the ban into law in March, turning Mississippi into the home of the country's most stringent abortion restrictions. The 15-week ban allowed exceptions only for a fetus "incompatible with life" or one that threatened the life of its mother. The ban still applied in cases of rape or incest. At the time, Jameson Taylor, the acting president of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, the conservative think tank that helped draft the legislation, commended Mississippi lawmakers for "protecting maternal health."

Immediately following the law's passage, the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, Jackson Women's Health Organization, sued the state with help from the Center for Reproductive Rights, who together argued that the law was unconstitutional.

"HB 1510 is not only unconstitutional, but it denies necessary health care to patients, while shaming them and endangering their lives," Willie Parker, a physician who travels to Mississippi every month to provide abortions in its sole clinic, said in a statement Tuesday. “Patients in Mississippi need more access to care. Politicians must stop trying to deny women their right to live a life with dignity and self-determination.”

Reeves bolstered reproductive rights advocates' arguments in his ruling, suggesting that the state's ultimate goal in proposing such a blatantly unconstitutional law was to appeal it all the way up to the Supreme Court with hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade.

It seems such may be the object of other states legislatures across the country. On Thursday, the Ohio House of Representatives passed what's known as a "heartbeat ban," or a ban on abortion starting around six weeks, at the first detection of a fetal heartbeat. If it passes in the Ohio state Senate and is signed into law by Governor John Kasich (who, it's worth noting, vetoed a similar bill in 2016), it would become the strictest abortion legislation in the country. Given that some women may not even know they're pregnant until after the six-week mark, it would effectively amount to a total ban on abortion in the state.

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Reeves ended his Tuesday decision condemning any male lawmaker who would use his power to exert his will over women's bodies.

"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," he concluded. "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. Respecting her autonomy demands that this statute be enjoined."

reproductive rights
roe v. wade
women's health
Abortion Rights
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