On Thursday, the Mississippi house passed a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, without exceptions for rape or incest, even though the state’s only remaining abortion clinic only performs abortions up to 16 weeks.
Diane Derzis, owner of Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic, told the Associated Press that the bill would not affect her clinic, but that she would expect a legal challenge if the bill became law. Courts have blocked the enforcement of 20-week abortion bans in three states because they are unconstitutional, and ten states have 20-week bans in effect.
The house passed the bill, HB 1400, on an 89-22 vote.
The sponsor, Rep. Andy Gipson (R-Braxton), said the bill is needed in part because of recent health department data indicating several hundred abortions performed at “unknown gestational age,” and at least one performed after 20 weeks. The language of the bill justifies the ban based on medically disproven ideas that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks.
Rep. Adrienne Wooten (D-Jackson) pushed back against Gipson for not including exceptions for rape or incest, saying that children who have been victimized and impregnated may wait longer to seek assistance because they have been told not to tell anyone. An amendment introduced by Rep. Toby Barker (R-Hattiesburg), who describes himself as “pro-life,” would have provided exceptions for rape and incest, but was defeated.
The bill now moves to the state senate.