MS lawmakers pass nation's strictest abortion laws

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Mississippi lawmakers passed what could become the nation's most restrictive abortion law on Thursday. It would make the procedure illegal after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The House voted 75-34 in favor of the measure, and Gov. Phil Bryant has said he will sign it.

"I'm very excited about it," said Susanna Stegall, a pro-life supporter with the group 40 Days for Life. Susanna and fellow Mid-South members of the organization stand vigil outside the Planned Parenthood on Poplar Avenue in Midtown.

"It's not about judging the women who come here," she said, "because that's the opposite of what we really want to do.  We want to reach out and help them know there is another option and there is another way."

Aimee Lewis--with Planned Parenthood Memphis Greater Region--said the move by Mississippi lawmakers was not a surprise.  The bill, she contends, will not hold up in court if challenged.

"A 15-week abortion ban is an unconstitutional attempt," she said, "to limit access to safe and legal abortion."

Thirteen percent of the Poplar Avenue clinic's clients are from Mississippi. And more are expected, according to Lewis, if the bill does become law.

"We have providers here who are here to provide care no matter what," she said,  "and we're proud to serve Mississippians.  We believe that healthy woman and families mean healthy communities."

Bryant is expected to sign the bill into law, tweeting Thursday: "As I have repeatedly said, I want Mississippi to be the safest place in America for an unborn child.  House Bill 1510 will help us achieve that."

The owner of Mississippi's only abortion clinic in Jackson, and the Mississippi ACLU have both said they will sue if the law takes effect.  Pro-life advocates like Susanna Stegall welcome that.

"I think that's probably a good thing," she said. "I'd like to see this go all the way back up to the Supreme Court.  I would like to see them overturn Roe vs. Wade."

At Planned Parenthood in Memphis, they brace for battle, and for an uptick in out of state patients.  The constant fight continues to make sure women have access to reproductive health care and the right to choose an abortion.

"That's a decision best left to a woman," said Lewis, "and to her physician, her family, and her faith.  Politicians have no business being involved in that decision."

There are two exceptions to this abortion bill:  if the fetus can't survive outside the womb or the mother's life is in jeopardy.  Pregnancies by rape or incest are not exempt under the new bill.

Copyright 2018 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.