Federal judges strike down Mississippi 'fetal heartbeat' abortion ban

Federal judges strike down Mississippi 'fetal heartbeat' abortion ban
© Kuzuma/iStock

A panel of federal judges on Thursday struck down a Mississippi ban on abortions past the point of a detectable fetal heartbeat — a gestation period of about six weeks.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the Fifth District temporarily blocks the law and upholds an earlier decision issued in May 2019.

The decision comes after the same court ruled to block a separate 15-week abortion ban, CBS News reported.

ADVERTISEMENT

The panel reasoned that if other abortion bans after a lengthier gestation periods were struck down, then a six-week abortion ban by this logic would also be struck down. 

"[A]ll agree that cardiac activity can be detected well before the fetus is viable. That dooms the law. If a ban on abortion after 15 weeks is unconstitutional, then it follows that a ban on abortion at an earlier stage of pregnancy is also unconstitutional,” the panel wrote Thursday.

"A ban at six weeks of pregnancy means many of our patients would lose their right to have an abortion before they even know they're pregnant," Shannon Brewer, director of the state’s sole abortion provider, Jackson Women's Health Organization, told CBS.

"Most of our patients are past that point. Some have spent weeks saving money for the procedure and have driven hundreds of miles to reach us."

Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Ohio all passed similar measures in 2019, all of which have since been blocked by federal courts.

Abortion opponents have advanced the measures with a goal of taking the legal fights to the Supreme Court, where the high court’s conservative majority could potentially revisit the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that struck down abortion bans nationwide.