Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant Signs Bill Banning Abortion at 20 Weeks

3 photos(Photo: Reuters)An image of an unborn child.

Mississippi Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill Wednesday that will ban abortions after 20 weeks gestation starting on July 1.

"Today is an important day for protecting the unborn and the health and safety of women in Mississippi," Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement shared with The Christian Post. "Medical research shows that an unborn child can feel pain by not later than 20 weeks gestation, and research also shows that the risk of death and complications from an abortion increases significantly as a pregnancy progresses."

The bill, H.B. 1400, requires abortion providers to conduct an ultrasound to determine the gestational age of a baby before they can induce an abortion or start any abortion procedure.

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As passed, the bill does provide exceptions for women who must undergo a later-term abortion, such as in cases where the mother faces a medical emergency that would lead to the termination of her pregnancy, or in cases where physicians have determined that a baby will not survive, even with medical treatment, outside the womb.

Women who become pregnant as a result of a rape or incest and want to have an abortion are not exempt from the law. They would need to obtain an abortion within the first five months of a pregnancy.

Abortionists who defy the new law by performing an abortion after 20 weeks gestation could lose their medical license or face a denial to renew their license.

On April 2, during the last day of the three-month legislative session, Bryant spoke publically about his grown daughter's pregnancy and commented that she is at the midpoint in her pregnancy, according to USA Today.

"We've seen that baby and it's healthy. It's a boy," Bryant said. "And the idea of destroying that human is just reprehensible to me."

Mississippi lawmakers in both chambers took a final vote on April 1 to pass the bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Bryant on Wednesday.

Originally passed in the state House on Feb. 13 as a law that would ban abortion at or after 20 weeks of conception, lawmakers in the Senate changed the bill in March to calculate a pregnancy from the date when a woman's last menstrual period ended, instead of when an embryo implants itself in a woman's uterus.

Felicia Brown-Williams, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood Southeast, told The Clarion-Ledger that the law is "extreme" because the cutoff point for performing an abortion will be measured by the woman's last menstrual period, which means that the 20-week abortion ban will be at the preborn baby's gestational age of 18 weeks.

"Gestational age is actually two weeks earlier than post-conception age," Williams told The Associated Press in an interview last month.

Sen. Joey Fillingane (R-Sumrall) said pro-life groups had expressed concerns that using the post-conception age definition could have allowed abortions to be performed past 20 weeks.

Rep. Andy Gipson (R-Braxton), author of H.B, 1400, told ABC News 10 that banning abortion after the fifth month of pregnancy is in the best interest of pregnant women who face greater health risks, and even death, by undergoing late-term abortion procedures.

"At five months an unborn child can live outside the womb. Under Mississippi law, if they're born prematurely, there are ethical obligations for physicians to resuscitate that child," Gipson said.

"What we found in our health department records is that there were 529 abortions done last year of unknown gestational age, and at least 24 were up-to 20 weeks gestation, and at least one was over 20 weeks gestation. … Medical evidence shows that the unborn, at this age, can feel pain, which we believe is inhumane," he added.

In an interview with ABC News 10, Fillingane commented that Mississippi is simply catching up with surrounding states that have already passed similar regulations on abortion.

"The bill is nothing unique to Mississippi," he said, citing Texas' 20 week abortion ban. "It's more than five months into the gestational age of the child, so it's not as though people who choose to have abortions don't have plenty of opportunity during the first four-and-a-half to five months of pregnancy. It's much safer for the woman and much less intrusive."

Mississippi recorded 2,176 abortions in 2012, the latest year for which the state Department of Health made figures available, according to Reuters. Eleven of the documented abortions occurred between the 16th and 20th weeks of gestation, and two after 20 weeks. - Jackson, MS

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