Judge won’t block bill to ban most abortions in Mississippi | Health and fitness


JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – As lawyers debated abortion laws across the South on Tuesday, a Mississippi judge denied a request by the state’s only abortion clinic to temporarily block a bill that would ban most abortions.

Barring further developments in the clinic’s lawsuit, the clinic will close at the close of business Wednesday and the state law will take effect Thursday.

Mississippi lawmakers passed the “trigger” bill before the U.S. Supreme Court recently overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The clinic, a Jackson women’s health organization, sought a temporary restraining order that would have allowed it to remain open while the lawsuit played out in court.

The closely watched lawsuit was part of a flurry of activity across the country since the Supreme Court’s ruling. Conservative states have stopped short of stopping or restricting abortions, while others have sought to secure abortion rights, even as some women try to get the medical procedure against a changing legal landscape.

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Florida’s new 15-week abortion ban was blocked but then quickly reinstated Tuesday after the state attorney general appealed a lawsuit challenging the limit. Judge John C. Cooper issued an order temporarily suspending the law after reproductive health providers argued that the state constitution guarantees the right to due process. The state quickly appealed his order, automatically reinstating the law.

Florida law makes exceptions if the procedure is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life, prevent serious injury, or if the fetus has fatal abnormalities. It does not allow exemptions for pregnancies caused by rape, incest or human trafficking.

The law, which took effect Friday, was passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature and signed into law by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis this spring.

In Louisiana, the attorney general has asked the state Supreme Court to allow enforcement of a ban on most abortions. Louisiana’s anti-abortion statutes include so-called triggers that are designed to take effect immediately if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns abortion rights. But a state judge in New Orleans last week blocked enforcement of the law pending a court hearing in a lawsuit filed by a north Louisiana abortion clinic and others.

The Louisiana lawsuit says the law is unclear about when the ban goes into effect and about medical exemptions to the ban. The state attorney’s office’s submission from Tuesday says the order to block execution should be lifted.

Mississippi was one of several states with a “trigger” law that depended on the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. The law was passed in 2007 and has never been challenged in court. It says abortion will only be legal if the pregnant woman’s life is in danger or if the pregnancy is caused by rape that has been reported to the police. There is no exception for pregnancies caused by incest.

The clinic’s lawsuit cites a 1998 Mississippi Supreme Court decision that said the state constitution invokes a right to privacy that “includes an implied right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.”

The attorney general’s office argued that the 1998 ruling was rooted in 1973 and 1992 US Supreme Court decisions that established or protected abortion rights but were overturned on June 24. But Rob McDuff, an attorney for the clinic, argued that the state court never said their decision was made because of the federal constitution.

“They never said it would go away if Roe was ever overturned,” McDuff said in court Tuesday.

The attorney general’s office said the Mississippi Constitution does not recognize the right to an abortion and that the state has a long history of restricting the procedure.

“In the past two weeks, the state of the law has changed dramatically,” state attorney Scott Stewart argued in court on Tuesday.

The lawsuit was filed three days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in a case that originated in Mississippi. The clinic continued to see patients, but owner Diane Derzis said she would close if the abortion ban goes into effect.

Circuit Court Judge Debbra K. Halford on Tuesday denied the clinic’s request to block the new state law from taking effect Thursday.

“The plain wording of the Mississippi Constitution makes no mention of abortion,” Halford wrote. She added that it is “more than doubtful” that the Mississippi Supreme Court will continue to uphold its 1998 decision now that the U.S. Supreme Court has reversed its previous rulings on abortion.

McDuff told The Associated Press that the clinic’s lawyers will review Halford’s decision and consider whether to appeal it to the state Supreme Court.

Outside a courthouse Tuesday in Mississippi’s capital, several women held signs supporting abortion rights while two men took turns using a microphone to tell abortion rights advocates that God will punish them forever.

“You are bloodthirsty. Bloodthirsty, disgusting filth in the sight of God,” said one of the anti-abortion protesters, Allen Siders. “Consider your ways today, you sinners. Think about your ways today. Shame on you.”

The abortion rights advocate performed an impromptu dance in front of Siders to mock him, and several women laughed.

Anthony Izaguirre reported from Tallahassee, Florida, and Kevin McGill reported from New Orleans.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, copied or distributed without permission.

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