Mississippi governor signs 'heartbeat' abortion ban into law

Mississippi governor signs 'heartbeat' abortion ban into law

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) on Thursday signed an abortion bill that bans the procedure once a fetus has a detectable heartbeat, something that can generally happen within six weeks of a pregnancy. 

The new abortion law is one of the strictest in the country. Bryant said in a pair of tweets this week that lawmakers' efforts to pass this bill were part of an initiative to protect the unborn. 

"We will all answer to the good Lord one day," he said in a tweet on Wednesday. "I will say in this instance, 'I fought for the lives of innocent babies, even under threat of legal action.'”

This is the second time in less than a year that Mississippi has taken steps to enforce restrictions on a woman's ability to receive an abortion. It also comes during a time when many U.S. states propose stricter measures related to abortion. 

Opponents of Mississippi's "heartbeat" legislation argue that many women do not know they are pregnant by the time a fetal heartbeat can be detected.  

The bill also says that physicians would be subject to losing their license to practice medicine if they violated the law, according to Reuters. The news outlet noted that women will be allowed to have abortions after a heartbeat is detected if there are extreme health risks. 

The legislation is set to officially become law in July unless a court intervenes, The New York Times reported. Abortion rights advocates have already said they will sue to block the bill. 

“This ban is one of the most restrictive abortion bans signed into law, and we will take Mississippi to court to make sure it never takes effect,” Hillary Schneller, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, told the Times. 

Mississippi, a state with just one abortion clinic, has taken some of the most aggressive stances against the procedure in the country. A federal judge in November blocked the state from an enforcing a ban on abortions 15 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period. 

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, an appointee of former President Obama, said at the time that the bill  “unequivocally" violated the constitutional rights of a woman.