Mississippi passed a bill Tuesday that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. HB 1510, or the Gestational Age Act, will make Mississippi have the most restrictive abortion practice in the country.
Previous Mississippi law regarding abortions has restricted women from having an abortion after 20 weeks into their pregnancy.
Pro-Life Mississippi published a news release during the earlier stages of the bill that noted the benefits of the bill and state support.
“This bill will protect women from serious risks and will protect the life of the pre-born child whose heart is beating, can move, and can feel pain,” the news release read. “In January 2018 polling, 76 percent of voters support commonsense laws, such as HB 1510, regarding abortion.”
While organizations like Pro-Life Mississippi support the legislation, others are not as eager for this change in women’s health. Policy Director for the National Network of Abortion Funds, Melissa Torres-Montoya, said the individual should always be considered.
“At the National Network of Abortion Funds, we don’t think any bans for any time periods are constitutional based on Roe v. Wade as established law. Instead, we need to acknowledge that each person has unique medical and personal circumstances.”
This 15-week gestation bill allows for certain exceptions, including abortions after 15 weeks if the pregnancy threatens a mother’s life or health, or if the fetus is not predicted to survive outside of the uterus. This bill, like established Mississippi law, does not include women who were raped or victims of incest.
“Politicians shouldn’t make these decisions for us, just like we shouldn’t make decisions about pregnancy and families for anyone other than ourselves,” said Torres-Montoya. “Everyone loves someone who had an abortion. Abortion is a loving decision that we make for ourselves and our families so we can choose our own paths forward.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that describes itself as “the leading research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States and globally,” approximately 926,200 abortions occurred in the United States in 2014. In the same year, around 2,290 abortions were performed in Mississippi.
“I personally believe the government should not be able to tell people what they can and can’t do with their bodies,” said Caysi Mitchell, a 21-year old University of Mississippi junior integrated marketing communications major from Picayune, Mississippi “Pregnancy can be a dangerous process and leave you with health problems. It’s not right to force someone to go through that if they don’t want to.”
The legislation will affect Mississippi women and the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The JWHO was the first women’s clinic in Mississippi and has been the only abortion clinic in the state since 2006 when the state’s only other abortion clinic was shut down.
Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming each have only one abortion clinic. The JWHO withstood anti-abortion bills with the potential to close it.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, “Since 2010, the U.S. abortion landscape has grown increasingly restrictive as more states become hostile to abortion rights. Between 2010 and 2016, states enacted 338 new abortion restrictions, which account for nearly 30 percent of the 1,142 abortion restrictions enacted by states since the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.”
Caroline Burford, a 21-year old junior nursing major from Olive Branch, said she’s against abortion.
“I am personally against abortion unless it’s under extreme circumstances,” she said. “That being said, you do what you want to do with your body.”
Burford said the new legislation may not be the best idea for Mississippi women.
“I feel like Mississippi is eventually trying to make abortion illegal,” she said. “I don’t think you should make it illegal. People will still do it illegally, which is not safe.”
When done legally and at a reputable clinic, abortion is one of the safest surgical procedures for women in the United States. The American Journal of Public Health reports: “Fewer than 0.05% of women obtaining abortions experience a complication.”
Kayla Nicholson, a 22-year old pre-med student from Hickory Flat, who also personally opposes abortion, believes the legislation could be harmful to Mississippi women’s health and rights.
“I personally wouldn’t get an abortion, but they have no right to stop another person from getting one,” said Nicholson.