The Mississippi Senate has approved a bill that is aimed at banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy on Tuesday.
State House Bill 1510, which would be the earliest abortion ban in the U.S. if signed into law, was approved by the Senate by a vote of 35–14. The measure, which was passed by the House by a 79–31 vote last month, would prohibit abortions after 15 weeks except in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities or when the life or health of the mother is at risk.
According to Life Site News, the bill has been sent back to the House because senators have removed a provision that would have made it a felony for doctors to abort babies older than 15 weeks. Physicians who are found to be in violation of the law would have their professional licenses suspended or revoked.
"The United States Supreme Court ... has indicated that the state has a couple of interests when it comes to regulating abortion. One is protecting the health and life of the mother. Another is protecting the potentiality of human life," said Republican Sen. Joey Fillingame.
The Republican lawmaker noted that the senators removed the provision about possible prison time for physicians because "I just don't want to criminalize any behavior."
Fillingame said that licensing sanctions and civil penalties were enough, adding that the provision about criminal penalties had been opposed by physicians groups.
Pro-abortion lawmakers have reportedly attempted to include a provision that would have allowed abortions after 15 weeks in cases of rape or incest, but the amendment failed.
If the House agrees with the amendments made by the Senate, the bill would be sent to the desk of Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who has expressed support for the measure.
"As I have repeatedly said, I want Mississippi to be the safest place in America for an unborn child. House Bill 1510 will help us achieve that goal," the governor tweeted on Tuesday, as reported by Associated Press.
The legislation would also require abortionists to provide the Mississippi Department of Health with a record of the abortion, including the date and method of the procedure as well as the gestational age of the fetus, within 15 days after performing the procedure. Physicians who are found to be providing false reports could face civil penalties or fees of up to $500, according to AP.
Owners of Jackson Women's Health Organization, the only abortion clinic in the state, said that their facility performs abortions up to 18 weeks and they will consider a legal challenge if the bill is signed into law.
Fillingame had expressed hope that modern medical advancements would help the legislation withstand a court challenge.
"Assuming this bill were to become law, these challenges take two to three years to make their way up to the Supreme Court. Who knows how far down the road technology would find us?" the lawmaker said last week.