Federal judge rules Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban is unconstitutional

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked Mississippi from enacting a ban on abortions past 15-weeks and criticized state lawmakers for trying to pass legislation that would trigger an overturn of Roe v. Wade.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, an appointee of former President Obama, ruled that the Mississippi Gestational Age Act “unequivocally” violates a woman's constitutional rights, BuzzFeed News reported.

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The law, which was enacted in March, would have prohibited abortions 15 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period. It would have been one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion bans. 

The law made exceptions in cases of a medical emergency that threatened the mother or "a severe fetal abnormality" that would have prevented the fetus surviving outside of the womb.

It did not include exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

Doctors could have faced fines or have their licenses suspended or revoked if they performed the procedure after 15 weeks, BuzzFeed News noted.

Reeves temporarily blocked the measure shortly after it was signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant (R) in response to a restraining order sought by the state’s only clinic that offers abortions.

Abortion rights activists called the law unconstitutional because it limits abortions before fetuses can survive outside the womb.

The judge agreed and wrote that while every pregnancy is different, “established medical consensus” has determined that viability usually begins after 23 or 24 weeks.

Reeves also wrote in his opinion that it was frustrating that Mississippi lawmakers passed the bill even though the Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision found that a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion.

"The Court’s frustration, in part, is that other states have already unsuccessfully litigated the same sort of ban that is before this Court and the State is aware that this type of litigation costs the taxpayers a tremendous amount of money," Reeves wrote in his opinion.

"No, the real reason we are here is simple. 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," he continued. 

Reeves wrote that he would follow the Supreme Court’s decision on the Constitution and not “the disingenuous calculations of the Mississippi Legislature.”

The judge also wrote that there was a “sad irony” in male lawmakers dictating legislation about women’s reproductive health.

"As a man, who cannot get pregnant or seek an abortion, I can only imagine the anxiety and turmoil a woman might experience when she decides whether to terminate her pregnancy through an abortion. Respecting her autonomy demands that this statute be enjoined," Reeves wrote.

Mississippi already has some of the most restrictive laws in the nation, including requirements that a woman seeking an abortion must receive counseling before doing so and wait 24 hours before the procedure is provided.