Senate passes ban on abortion after detectable heartbeat

Published 4:00 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Mississippi senators on Tuesday passed the final version of a bill that would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, about six weeks into pregnancy.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant promises he will sign the bill , which will give Mississippi one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws. The 34-15 Senate vote was largely along party lines, with most Republicans voting yes and most Democrats voting no.

“A beating heart clearly means life has begun and should be protected,” Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said in a statement after the vote.

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Felicia Brown-Williams, Mississippi director for Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates, said women might not know they are pregnant before six weeks.

“So, in effect, the Mississippi Legislature just outlawed abortion for most Mississippians,” Brown-Williams said in a statement.

Legislators in several states, including Georgia and Tennessee, are considering similar bills to ban abortion once a heartbeat is detected. Kentucky’s Republican-controlled legislature passed the final version of a bill Thursday, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin signed it Friday and the American Civil Liberties Union challenged it that day in federal court in Louisville.

Abortion-rights supporters are expected to sue to try to block such laws in other states, including Mississippi.

Opponents of abortion are emboldened by a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court and are seeking a case that could challenge the high court’s 1973 decision that legalized the procedure nationwide.

Mississippi enacted a law last year to ban abortion after 15 weeks. The only abortion clinic in the state filed a lawsuit and a federal judge declared the law unconstitutional. The state has asked a federal appeals court to overturn the ruling.