5th Circuit denies Mississippi’s appeal of 15-week abortion ban

The state’s appeal of a federal judge’s decision to block a recently proposed abortion ban has been denied. 

In 2018, the Mississippi legislature passed a bill that would ban abortion in Mississippi after 15 weeks, and it was deemed unconstitutional by District Judge Carlton Reeves in November 2018. The state’s appeal has now been denied by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“The central question before us is whether this law is an unconstitutional ban on pre-viability abortions. In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed, and re-affirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability,” the court’s ruling reads. 

The decision, authored by Circuit Judge Patrick Higginbotham, goes on to say that states do have the ability to “regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they do not impose an undue burden on the woman’s right, but they may not ban abortions.”

In November 2018, Judge Reeves wrote that his ruling came down to one overarching question. 

“There is a lone legal question presented: does H.B. 1510 infringe on the Fourteenth Amendment due process rights of women? It does, unequivocally.”

In a tweet, Governor Bryant reacted to Friday’s ruling. 

“We will sustain our efforts to fight for America’s unborn children. Mississippi will continue this mission to the United States Supreme Court,” he said.

During the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill that would prohibit abortion in Mississippi as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Governor Bryant signed the bill in March and another lawsuit was instantly filed to block the bill from taking effect. In May, Reeves ruled in favor of the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, stating that the bill “threatens immediate harm to women’s rights”. 

“This Court previously found the 15-week ban to be an unconstitutional violation of substantive due process because the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that women have the right to choose an abortion prior to viability, and a fetus is not viable at 15 weeks If a fetus is not viable at 15 weeks it is not viable at 6 weeks,” Reeves wrote in May. 

The state is currently appealing that decision as well. 

The JWHO is currently the state’s only remaining abortion clinic, which performs abortions up to 16 weeks into a pregnancy.