Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Mississippi 15-Week Abortion Ban

Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Mississippi 15-Week Abortion Ban
Photo:BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (AFP via Getty Images)

The U.S. Court of Appeals For The Fifth Circuit struck down Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban on Friday night, the latest restrictive abortion law to not take effect. Most of the abortion restrictions signed into law by state governors have been blocked by lawsuits in front of the federal judiciary. (The Fifth Circuit handles cases from Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi and is considered one of the most conservative.)

“In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed, and re-affirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability. States may regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they do not impose an undue burden on the woman’s right, but they may not ban abortions,” U.S. Appeals Court Judge Patrick Higginbotham wrote in the ruling. “The law at issue is a ban. Thus, we affirm the district court’s invalidation of the law.”

The undue burden referred to in Higginbotham’s ruling is from the 2016 case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt and 1992 case Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which found that states cannot put into place statutes that would unreasonably affect a person’s ability to obtain the abortion.

The lawsuit was brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the last abortion provider in Mississippi. “The Fifth Circuit recognized today what is obvious: Mississippi’s abortion ban defies decades of Supreme Court precedent,” Hillary Schneller, a senior CRR staff attorney, said in a statement to CNN.

The Guttmacher Institute found that 25 new abortion bans had been signed into law this year, many, like Mississippi’s, in the South and Midwest. Numerous lawsuits from these laws are pending. One of them, June Medical Services LLC v. Gee, will be heard by the Supreme Court in March 2020. The law in question is identical to the law overturned by the Whole Woman’s Health decision.

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