Women in Mississippi will no longer live in limbo, wondering whether the state's law banning abortion after 15 weeks of gestation—one of the most restrictive bans in the U.S.—will go into effect, after a federal judge blocked the measure and directly rebuked the state's Republican lawmakers for passing an unconstitutional law meant to force a legal battle over Roe vs. Wade.
Slamming the "disingenuous calculations" of Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and the legislature, U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves blocked the Gestational Age Act (H.B. 1510) in his ruling on Tuesday, arguing that under the Supreme Court's Planned Parenthood vs. Casey decision, states cannot infringe on women's constitutional right to obtain abortion care in the first trimester of pregnancy.
"The State chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to endorse a decades-long campaign, fueled by national interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade." —Judge Carlton W. Reeves
Moreover, the judge said, the Republican attempt to threaten Roe vs. Wade by embroiling women's right to abortion care in court cases and appeals in the hopes of re-litigating the 45-year-old law at the Supreme Court, would not stand in Mississippi.
"The State chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to endorse a decades-long campaign, fueled by national interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade," Reeves, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010, wrote in his opinion. "This Court follows the commands of the Supreme Court and the dictates of the United States Constitution, rather than the disingenuous calculations of the Mississippi Legislature."
The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), which filed the lawsuit to challenge the ban on behalf of the only remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi, was among the groups that applauded Reeves' decision and his admonishment of the GOP-led legislature.
"Today's decision should be a wake-up call for state lawmakers who are continuously trying to chip away at abortion access. Such bans will not stand in a court of law," said CRR president Nancy Northrup in a statement.
This is a tremendous victory for the rights of pregnant people to make their own personal medical decisions. https://t.co/6gc9ky1dWA
— Cecile Richards (@CecileRichards) November 21, 2018
Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban: BLOCKED.
"The State chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to endorse a decades-long campaign, fueled by national interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade." https://t.co/xO3qtv1qWR
— Planned Parenthood Action (@PPact) November 20, 2018
The Mississippi ban was signed into law last March but was temporarily blocked by a federal court shortly after. The block was extended several times, with the last extension set to expire this month. Reeves' ruling permanently protects the right to an abortion in the state unless Bryant appeals the decision.
Reeves had further criticism to offer the state Republicans for their crusade against the legal procedure, accusing the legislature of "pure gaslighting" in its claim that it is fighting for "women's health."
"Its leaders are proud to challenge Roe but choose not to lift a finger to address the tragedies lurking on the other side of the delivery room: our alarming infant and maternal mortality rate," Reeves added.
The ruling will also protect women in neighboring Louisiana, rendering a similar 15-week ban unenforceable. The state passed the law this year but stipulated that it would only take effect if Mississippi's ban held up in court, as the GOP continues its attacks on women's right to abortion care in states where access to abortion is already severely limited.
Earlier this year, Planned Parenthood, the Guttmacher Institute, and the Kaiser Family Foundation ranked the states as two of the worst in the country for abortion access, giving both Mississippi and Louisiana a grade of "F" for their restrictive laws and dearth of clinics that provide the procedure.
With Reeves' ruling, the judge suggested the state would be able to take a huge step forward in granting women the same control over their reproductive systems that is enjoyed by men.
"Legislation like H.B. 1510 is closer to the old Mississippi—the Mississippi bent on controlling women and minorities. The Mississippi that, just a few decades ago, barred women from serving on juries 'so they may continue their service as mothers, wives, and homemakers,'" the judge wrote.
"The fact that men, myself included, are determining how women may choose to manage their reproductive health is a sad irony not lost on the Court," Reeves added.