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Abortion Advocates Fear New Mississippi Law Will be the End of Roe v. Wade

Kami Bullock, left, and Barbara Beavers stand with signs outside the Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic in Jackson, Miss., on March 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Pro-choice advocates are worried Mississippi’s new law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy is more than “one dangerous step closer to (Mississippi women) losing their constitutional right to access abortion,” as Pro-Choice America spokeswoman Adrienne Kimmell said.

They also fear the Mississippi law could lead the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) said House Bill 1510 would help make his state “the safest place in America for an unborn child.”

Elizabeth Nash, the state policy expert for the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, also sees something more nefarious in the intent of the legislation. She told Politico, “Mississippi lawmakers are both pushing the envelope and testing Roe v. Wade at the same time.”

What’s to worry about? Although 18 states now ban abortion after 20 weeks, federal courts have struck down attempts at more restrictive legislation in North Dakota and Arkansas. And the Supreme Court let those rulings stand, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Well, Nash is afraid that by the time the Mississippi law hits the U.S. Supreme Court, the Trump administration will have had the opportunity to replace one or two retiring justices with more conservative jurists.

“I think the real aim here is to instigate a legal challenge that would put abortion before the U.S. Supreme Court since abortion opponents are anticipating that in the next few years there will be a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court that will be more open to curtailing abortion rights,” Nash told Governing.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood (D) told Politico he expects “an immediate and expensive legal challenge.”

Diane Derzis, who owns Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, said she’s ready to make Hood’s prediction come true.

“These groups are tossing anything and everything out there, anything that could start winding its way through the legal system because we’re in a very fragile place right now,” Derzis told the Clarion-Ledger. “Roe is clearly in danger and that’s what they’re preparing for. … They hope by the time they get to the Supreme Court they will have changed the Supreme Court.”

Leslie Gorman, deputy policy director at Pro-Choice America, told Reuters abortion rights groups would challenge the new law in court once Bryant signs the legislation. She also said organizations like Pro-Choice America are ready to take the fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

So, too, are pro-life forces if it comes to that, according to Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.

“Mississippians are committed to protecting the lives of unborn children, and this law will be a major step in accomplishing that goal,” said Reeves after the Senate passed the measure. “I am committed to making Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child.”

The Mississippi House passed H.B. 1510 on March 8, which, ironically, was International Women’s Day, a fact noted in a Planned Parenthood press release.

“Yet again politicians in Mississippi are trying to impose their beliefs on everyone and control women’s bodies, no matter how many people it hurts,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “These new restrictions would make it nearly impossible for many women to get an abortion in a state that only has one abortion provider to begin with.”

Planned Parenthood’s statement also claimed the new law was the “first of its kind and part of a broader agenda to ban abortion one law at a time.“

Giving credence to that claim is what’s happening in Kentucky.

While pro-choice and right-to-life forces get their attorneys ready to argue over the Mississippi law, another even more restrictive proposal is on the horizon in Kentucky.

The Kentucky House has approved legislation offered by state Rep. Addia Wuchner that would stop women from getting the “dilation and evacuation” procedure after 11 weeks.

Wuchner called the D&E procedure “cruel and gruesome” and said, “These lives are small and tiny, but they are still human.”

Brian Shoemaker, assistant director of Kentucky Right to Life, told the Lexington Herald-Leader the proposal is not intended to outlaw abortions.

“We are just saying that this particular brutal type of procedure for abortions should be banned,” he said.

Democratic Rep. Tom Burch warned that Kentucky taxpayers would have to fork over at least $1 million to defend against a possible lawsuit if the proposal becomes law.

Burch’s prediction didn’t bother Republican state Rep. Robert Benvenuti III.

“I say bring it,” Benvenuti said. “Let’s have that trial.”