Mississippi Governor Signs 18-Week Abortion Ban


Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed into law on Wednesday a bill that will ban abortion 20 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period, or after 18 weeks’ gestation.

Twelve other states have passed 20-week abortion bans since 2010, relying on medically disputed claims that fetuses can feel pain at that age. But Mississippi’s HB 1400, while popularly known as a “20-week ban,” will actually outlaw abortion two weeks earlier than the 20-week bans in those other states.

The only other recent “20-week ban” that outlawed the procedure so early was Arizona’s, and that was blocked by courts because it unconstitutionally restricted abortion pre-viability. A fetus is generally considered viable around 24 weeks.

In its original form, HB 1400 did ban abortion at 20 weeks “post-conception,” which is similar to the language in other states and equates to 22 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period. But the senate amended the bill to push back the cutoff date.

Whether at 18 or 20 weeks, however, these bans contradict Supreme Court rulings that abortion cannot be banned before a fetus is viable. Three 20-week bans, including Arizona’s, have already been blocked by courts for this reason, and West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) cited legal concerns when he recently vetoed a 20-week ban in his state.

Mississippi’s bill contains no exceptions for rape or incest, and only a limited exception for severe health issues or fatal abnormalities in the fetus.

Advocates say that legislators are wasting time passing unconstitutional bills that limit women’s health, especially in a state with such poor health outcomes for women as Mississippi. “With the women and families of their state facing extreme poverty, unacceptable rates of maternal mortality, and skyrocketing teen pregnancy, Mississippi’s elected officials have more than enough real work to do to bolster women’s well-being in their state,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement.

Mississippi has one remaining abortion clinic, which only performs abortion until 16 weeks of pregnancy, and which has been fighting in court to stay open since state legislators passed a law in 2012 intended to close it.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

To schedule an interview with Emily Crockett please contact Communications Director Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • fiona64

    This is so stupid; the vast majority of fetal anomalies cannot even be detected earlier than 20 weeks’ gestation … so what this really does is force women to carry wanted-but-doomed pregnancies to term while reproductive rights advocates are forced once again to spend money battling a prima facie unconstitutional law put into place by anti-choice politicians who are “playing doctor.”

  • CommonSense

    isn’t contraception cheaper than abortion?

    • Mindy McIndy

      Don’t you think most people try that first?

    • fiona64

      Yes … but all contraception, including surgical sterilization, has a known failure rate. Someone calling themselves “CommonSense” should be aware of that.

      Someone calling themselves “CommonSense” should also be aware that the majority of fetal anomalies cannot be detected prior to 20 weeks’ gestation. How much “common sense” is involved in forcing women whose pregnancies have gone awry to carry to term?

    • lady_black

      Isn’t abortion cheaper than birth?

  • Anon rust

    Each of these “abortion bans” based on gestational weeks fall far below the 24-week scientific viability date. Why are these state governors signing into law something they know will not pass constitutional ruling?

    Trying to run the ACLU out of money?

    Vying for a next term based on stripping women of bodily autonomy to appease the extremists?

    Because their candidacy is up for challenge?

    All of the above?

    • Suba gunawardana

      It takes time for the bans to eventually get overturned. In the meantime they get to control women; breed more children into poverty; and spread misery in general..

  • MrEveryman

    The law impacts about 2% of all pregnancies. The horror of this is most of these are wanted pregnancies where something went terribly wrong. Doctors won’t do what is medically correct for fear of license loss and jail time. As in the Savita Halappanavar case, the mothers will be left to carry terminal septic fetuses to term and die trying.

  • blfdjlj

    Backward bigoted state. They would probably restore segregation if not slavery if they could.

  • Ineedacoffee

    Mississippi – another part of America stuck in the stone age

    Where women are considered as nothing but dog sh*t

  • Suba gunawardana

    Apparently slavery never ended in Mississippi…

  • Arachne646

    Mississippi has money to waste litigating doomed anti-science legislation, just to make sure legislators get lots of press as “Bible-believing Christians” (that bothers me–there’s nothing prohibiting abortion in the Bible–quite the contrary!), but no money to improve their dismal health or education standards. Keep on keepin’ on.