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Mississippi House advances bill aimed at banning abortions after 15 weeks

(Reuters/Aaron P. Bernstein)Pro-life activists gather for the National March for Life rally in Washington, DC, U.S. January 27, 2017.

The Mississippi House of Representatives has approved a legislation that was aimed at banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, making it the earliest ban in the U.S. if signed into law.

State House Bill 1510, authored by Rep. Becky Currie (R-Brookhaven), was approved by the state House by a vote of 79–30, with Republicans and some Democrats supporting it.

The legislation would push back the state's current limit by five weeks. The bill includes exceptions in cases when the mother's life is at risk or in cases of severe fetal abnormality, according to Clarion Ledger.

Rep. Andy Gipson, chairman of the state House Judiciary B Committee, said that the state wants to protect women's health by prohibiting late-term abortions, which he says are riskier to women.

"The risk to the mother is the prime driver in this bill," said Gipson. "I think the Supreme Court has recognized that the states have an interest in protecting human life," he added.

Dr. Jameson Taylor, acting president of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, described the proposal as a "commonsense approach to protecting maternal health and protecting the life of the unborn."

"HB 1510 is supported by faith-based and pro-life organizations across the state. Recent polling (January 2018) indicates the vast majority (76%) of voters support commonsense laws regarding abortion, with a limit after the first trimester being one of the preferred options," Taylor said, as reported by Life Site News.

Some Democrats who opposed the bill said that Mississippi can't claim to be pro-life while failing to take care of children living in poverty across the state.

Rep. Adrienne Wooten (D-Jackson) noted that there are still more than 22,000 open cases of child abuse in the state, and claimed that there are around 8,500 victims of abuse and neglect on a daily basis.

"I didn't hear any legislation that deals with that. What I'm hearing is that you don't have a right to decide whether or not you should bring forward a life," she said.

Felicia Brown-Williams, state director for Planned Parenthood Advocates Southeast, said that the measure is unconstitutional, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court does not allow abortion bans before the unborn baby can live outside the womb.

The state's 20-week ban has not been challenged in court, but Diane Derzis, who owns the state's only abortion clinic in Jackson, said that she passed on a ban because her facility did not perform abortions after 20 weeks.

On Tuesday, Derzis said that her clinic performs abortion about three weeks past the new proposed ban, and noted that about 200 abortions a year are performed on women who are between 15 and 20 weeks pregnant.

Mississippi is currently one of several states that prohibit abortions after 20 weeks. Several years ago, North Dakota and Arkansas approved legislation that would have banned abortions at about six weeks, when an unborn baby has a detectable heartbeat, but both laws were struck down by the courts.

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