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Abortion in the U.S.

Mississippi anti-abortion Senate Bill 2922

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Abortion in Mississippi:

Approximately 4,000 abortions are performed annually in the Jackson Women's Health Organization. This is the only location in the state where abortions are available. Clinic personnel feel under siege. There is a permanent Anti-abortion protestors stop every car entering the car park and try to pass literature to those inside.

There are 25 anti-abortion clinics distributed throughout the state who offer counseling to women who are considering having an abortion. 10

A bill to ban all abortion in the state except for those necessary to save the life of the woman -- a very small percentage of all the abortions performed -- was proposed but died. It will not be re-filed until at least 2007-JAN.

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2006 Anti-abortion bill introduced and is approved by committee:

As of early 2006, the state requires that minors seeking an abortion have the consent of both parents. A 24 hour "cooling off" period is also required before a woman can have an abortion.

A Senate bill was introduced which would have required a pregnant woman to view an ultrasound or listen to the heartbeat of the embryo or fetus that they were carrying before being allowed to undergo an abortion. It was transferred to the House for consideration.

The House Public Health and Human Services Committee Chairperson Steve Holland (D-Plantersville) said that he was displeased at the slow speed of past attempts to chip away at abortion access in Mississippi. His committee amended the bill to ban almost all abortions in the state.

On 2006-FEB-28, the bill was approved by the Committee. It would have permitted an abortion only to save the life of the woman. There was no exception clause that would allow an abortion in other situations -- e.g. to preserve the health of the woman, or in the event that the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest.

The bill states:

SECTION 1.  Section 41-41-33, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     41-41-33. No abortion shall be performed or induced in the State of Mississippi, except in the case of a medical emergency or the presence of a life-threatening condition in the mother that would be worsened by continuing the pregnancy.

SECTION 2.  Section 41-41-39, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     41-41-39.  Anyone who purposefully, knowingly or recklessly performs or attempts to perform or induce an abortion in the State of Mississippi, except in the case of a medical emergency or the presence of a life-threatening condition in the mother that would be worsened by continuing the pregnancy, shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of time not to exceed one (1) year, or both such fine and imprisonment.

SECTION 3.  The State of Mississippi shall be responsible for the medical and educational needs of any child born to a citizen of this state if the mother has received family counseling during the gestation period and chose to continue the pregnancy to delivery, and the child will be entitled to these services until the child reaches the age of nineteen (19) and the mother agrees to allow for these services to be provided to the child.

SECTION 4.  This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2006. 6

It is not clear how the courts will interpret the clause "medical emergency." The clause seems to have been ignored by the media.

When asked whether he would sign the bill into law, Governor Haley Barbour (R) said: "It hasn't gotten to my desk yet. When one gets there, we'll find out, and I suspect I'll sign it. But I would certainly rather it come to my desk with an exception for rape and incest. I think that's consistent with the opinion of the vast majority of Mississippians and Americans."

House Speaker Billy McCoy, (D-Rienzi) predicted that the bill would pass the House and move to the Senate. He said: "As I live longer and longer, the harder and harder it has become for me to accept abortion, period." But he indicated that a bill without an exception for rape or incest would be "pretty tough" for him to support. He continued: "It's also for those of us who don't believe in abortion to think about the taking of a human life, regardless of how it got started to be on this earth."

Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, (R) who presides over the Senate said: "I think this body will look very strongly on pro-life issues."

Nsombi Lambright, spokesperson for American Civil Liberties in Mississippi, said that her group and other pro-choice groups might sue the state if the bill becomes law. She said: "That's more of the state's legal resources going to something that didn't have to happen." 1,2,3

Terri Herring, spokesperson for Pro-Life Mississippi hopes that the bill will become law. However, she has some doubt whether there is a sufficient number of conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court at this time to overturn Roe" v. Wade -- the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion. She said: "We're very excited about the possibility. We have refrained from pushing this type of legislation until we could see that the U.S. Supreme Court was ready to actually re-evaluate or overturn Roe. I think all experts agree that we are at least one justice short of being able to do that. Without knowing that God's hand is on this legislation, I think we have to proceed with caution." 4

Mississippi law has one complication not shared by other states that are considering similar laws (e.g. Missouri and South Dakota). In 1988, the state Supreme Court issued a ruling which found that the state's constitution implied that a woman had a right to have an abortion. Thus, even if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, this state Supreme Court decision would stand. Terry Herring said: "Until we overturn our own Roe, we can't hope to get this bill to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the other giant." She hopes that a conference between the House and Senate will introduce a human life amendment to the Mississippi Constitution. That is the only way that the state Supreme Court ruling could be overturned.

She also wants to see the bill modified so that any woman who becomes pregnant as a result of rape or incest will be forced to give birth. She said: "A child should not be put to death for the crime of his father. I can't support that." 5 On another occasion, she said: "We were disappointed that the rape and incest exceptions were added. I think it's our responsibility to have a pure Pro-Life message that has to be you don't kill a child for the crime of his father." 6

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The bill passes the Mississippi House:

The bill was debated in the full House. Representative Erik Fleming introduced an amendment to allow abortions in cases of rape or incest.

bulletFleming said: "Regardless of the amount of counseling that may be available, I think itís an unfair burden."
bulletJoey Fillingane (R) said: "The product of that union is not criminal."
bulletRep. Jim Evans, (D-Jackson), a minister, said: "If you've been raped by a low-life, no good, nasty, good-for-nothing rapist, and now you're going tell a woman she's got to look at it for 19 years or some time and carry it for 9 months? What kind of human being would do that?"
bulletRep. Warner McBride, (D-Courtland), referring to female teenage pages in the House chamber, said: "I don't think it's the place of the state of Mississippi to tell one of these young girls who may be raped that they can't deal with that. I would say that I think it's between them and their Lord."
bulletRep. Deryk Parker, (D-Lucedale) said: "God knew us before we was [sic] ever conceived. Life begins at conception. God does not make mistakes."
bulletRep. Eric Robinson, (R-Quitman), asked: "How many millions of souls are crying out that's [sic] been killed because of this hideous practice called abortion?" 8

The amendment was approved by a close vote of 62 to 56 after only two hours of debate. The bill, as amended, was passed by a vote of 95 to 25 on MAR-02. It now proceeds to the Senate. 5,6,7 Senate Public Health Committee Chairperson. Alan Nunnelee, (R-Tupelo) said: "Hopefully we can use this as a chance to overturn one of the most horrible court decisions since the Dred Scott decision." (The Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court in 1857 ruled that all blacks, whether free or enslaved, could never become American citizens.)

The National Women's Health Organization owns the only abortion clinic in the state. Its president, Susan Hill said the bill is part of a national anti-abortion movement to overturn Roe v. Wade. She said: "We will challenge it. We're not going anywhere. We're going to keep open." She said that the bill is a part of a national movement against abortion access. She said: "I'm sure they thought they could get it done in Mississippi faster." She predicted that if the bill becomes law, "Mississippians will drive to neighboring states. They won't stop, just as they didn't before Roe v. Wade."

Governor Barbour said that the goal of the bill should not be to be used as a "test case. We ought to try to do it to protect unborn children."

Terri Herring, of Pro-Life Mississippi predicted that the abortion rate will drop when this bill becomes law. She said: "I believe women are strong enough to deal with unplanned pregnancies. It will cause people to be more responsible. The problem is most people aren't using any self control or any birth control." 6

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Bill killed and revived:

The bill passed the House by an overwhelming 94 to 25 vote. However, when the Senators considered the bill, they made a few changes to the wording. This necessitated a conference to harmonize the text. The time ran out before the bill could be considered. 11

The House subsequently passed a resolution extending the conference deadline so that the bill still had a small possibility of passing. 12 However, time ran out before a compromise wording could be agreed to for SB 2922.

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Related essays:

bulletAnti-abortion bills in various states
bulletLaws restricting abortion in the U.S. and Canada
bulletRoe v. Wade: Its basis; court philosophies; political aspects
bulletThe future battle over women's access to abortion; The impact if Roe v. Wade is overturned

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Carey Gillam, "Battle brews as S. Dakota abortion law nears," Reuters News Agency, 2006-MAR-03, at: http://news.yahoo.com/.
  2. Emily Pettus, "Barbour says he'd likely sign bill to ban most abortions in Miss.," Sun Herald, 2006-MAR-01, at: http://www.sunherald.com/
  3. "Mississippi advances bill to ban most abortions. No exceptions for rape or incest; Barbour says heíll probably sign it into law," Associated Press, 2006-MAR-01, at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/
  4. Terry Vanderheyden, "Mississippi Abortion Ban Bill Passes House; Moves to Senate for Approval. Bill altered to include exceptions for rape, incest," LifeSite, 2006-MAR-03, at: http://www.lifesite.net/
  5. Michael Fous, "Mississippi House passes ban on most abortions," Baptist Press, 2006-MAR-03, at: http://www.bpnews.net/
  6. Laura Hipp, "House tweaks abortion ban bill. Legislators add exceptions for rape, incest to health provision," The Clarion-Ledger, 2006-MAR-03, at: http://www.clarionledger.com/
  7. "Mississippi One Step Closer to Criminalizing Abortion," Law Librarian Blog, 2006-MAR-01, at: http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/
  8. "Is Roe v. Wade doomed? The abortion battle is heating up as states pass anti-abortion bills," ABC News, 2006-MAR-03, at: http://abcnews.go.com/
  9. The status of the bill can be tracked at: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/
  10. Daniela Relph, "Abortion battle lines drawn in Mississippi," BBC News, 2006-MAR-12, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
  11. Tom Head, "Mississippi Abortion Bill Dies in Conference," About.com, 2006-MAR-27, at: http://civilliberty.about.com/
  12. Tom Head, "Mississippi Abortion Ban Has Nine Lives," About.com, 2006-MAR-28, at: http://civilliberty.about.com/
  13. Deirdra Harris Glover, "Lawmakers Adjourn Session Without Reaching Compromise on Abortion Ban," Pro-choice Mississippi, 2006-MAR-30, at: http://prochoicemississippi.org/

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Copyright © 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2006-MAR-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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