Mississippi passes 'heartbeat' abortion ban, gov. says he'll sign into law

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant arrives to attend B.B. King's funeral in Indianola, Mississippi, May 30, 2015. | (Photo: Reuters/Mike Blake)

Mississippi’s legislature passed a pair of bills Wednesday aimed at banning abortion at the time a baby's heartbeat is detected, which occurs as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Known as the “heartbeat bill,” the proposed legislation does not include exemptions for rape or incest. This and the early time in the pregnancy makes the proposed legislation, according to the Mississippi-based Clarion Ledger, “one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S.”

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant applauded the passage of the bills on his Twitter account, stating his intention to sign the legislation into law when it comes to him.

“I’ve often said I want Mississippi to be the safest place for an unborn child in America. I appreciate the leadership of the MS House and Senate, along with members of the legislature, for passing the fetal heartbeat bills today. I look forward to signing this act upon passage,” tweeted Bryant.

Felicia Brown-Williams, Mississippi director for Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates, denounced the bills in a statement.

“These bills would ban abortion — outlawing the procedure before most women even know they’re pregnant,” said Brown-Williams, according to the Clarion Ledger. “Individual rights and freedoms go to the heart of who we are as a country, including the right to access safe and legal abortion. Mississippians should be able to make their own most personal health care decisions without politicians controlling when, how, or why.”

Other states considering similar heartbeat bills include Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee, according to The Associated Press.

Last month, a district court judge ruled that an Iowa law banning abortion once a baby's heartbeat can be detected was unconstitutional.

In his decision Polk County District Judge Michael Huppert cited the Iowa Supreme Court and its previous striking down of a law mandating a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions.

“The Iowa Supreme Court held that a woman’s right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy is a fundamental right under the Iowa Constitution, and that any governmental limits on that right are to be analyzed using strict scrutiny,” wrote Huppert in January.

For its part, Mississippi previously passed a law that banned most abortions after 15 weeks, only to have it declared unconstitutional. Last November, the state decided to appeal the decision.

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