A US Federal Court in Mississippi has struck down a law banning abortions after 15 weeks as unconstitutional.
In March 2018, the state of Mississippi enacted legislation which would have prohibited women from accessing an abortion after 15 weeks gestation in cases of incest or rape. The legislation only allowed for abortion in these instances where the life of the mother was under threat, or there was a serious risk of a severe foetal abnormality. Under current state law, women are permitted to seek abortions until 20 weeks.
The legislation was the subject of a temporary injunction when the Jacksons Women’s Health Organization filed a suit challenging this ban. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves upheld the 2016 decision of the US Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt which held that a state cannot deny women the ultimate decision to terminate a pregnancy prior to viability. Medical opinion puts viability at 23-24 weeks.
Judge Reeves stated that “Mississippi’s law violates Supreme Court precedent, and in doing so it disregards the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of autonomy for women desiring to control their own reproductive health.” Judge Reeves noted that for more than 40 years, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade has been established law which recognises that the constitution “protects a woman’s basic right to choose an abortion.”
The Jacksons Women’s Health Organization is challenging other restrictions which the Court will rule on separately. These include restrictive licensing, a 24 hour mandatory delay and prohibition on remote diagnosis and treatment.
A similar ban which was passed in Louisiana in May will also not be given effect, as the effective date depended on the outcome of the Mississippi challenge.
Click here for the decision in Jackson Women’s Health Organization v Mary Currier.