As lawyers sparred Tuesday over abortion laws in the South, a Mississippi judge denied a request by the state’s only abortion clinic to temporarily block a law that would ban most abortions.
Without further developments in the Mississippi lawsuit, the clinic will close at the end of operations Wednesday and the state law will go into effect Thursday.
One of the clinic’s attorneys, Hillary Schneller of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the judge should have blocked the law.
“People in Mississippi who need abortions right now are in a state of panic, trying to get into the clinic before it’s too late,” Schneller said. “No one should be forced to live in fear like this.”
Mississippi lawmakers passed the “trigger” law before the U.S. Supreme Court recently overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. The clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, requested a temporary restraining order that would have allowed it to remain open while the trial unfolded in court.
“This law has the potential to save the lives of thousands of Mississippi’s unborn children,” Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said after the judge’s ruling. “It’s a big win for life. I also think it’s essential that we show every mother and every child that they are loved and that their communities will support them.
The closely watched trial was part of a nationwide flurry of activity since the Supreme Court ruling. Conservative states have moved to stop or limit abortions while others have sought to guarantee the right to abortion, all as some women attempt to obtain the medical procedure against the changing legal landscape.
Elsewhere in the South, Florida’s new 15-week abortion ban was blocked but quickly reinstated on Tuesday after an appeal by the state attorney general in a lawsuit challenging the restriction. Judge John C Cooper issued the order temporarily suspending the law after reproductive health providers argued that the state constitution guaranteed a right to process. The state quickly appealed its order, automatically reinstating the law.
Florida law provides exceptions if the procedure is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life, prevent serious injury, or if the fetus has a life-threatening abnormality. It does not allow exemptions for pregnancies caused by rape, incest or human trafficking.
The law, which took effect Friday, was passed by the GOP-controlled legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis this spring.
In Louisiana, the state attorney general has asked the state Supreme Court to allow enforcement of a ban on most abortions. Louisiana’s anti-abortion laws include so-called triggers that were designed to take effect instantly if the US Supreme Court struck down the right to abortion. But a New Orleans state judge last week blocked enforcement pending a hearing in a lawsuit filed by a northern Louisiana abortion clinic and others.
The Louisiana lawsuit says the law is unclear about when the ban takes effect and the medical exceptions. The attorney general’s application to the Supreme Court, filed over the holiday weekend and announced on Tuesday, says the restraining order should be dissolved.
Attorneys for the northern Louisiana clinic argued in a Tuesday afternoon brief that it was premature for the Supreme Court to take the case to the district judge and that an appeals court had the possibility of examining the problems in more detail.
Mississippi was one of several states whose trigger law depended on the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade. The law was passed in 2007 and has never been challenged in court. It says abortion will only be legal if the life of the pregnant woman is in danger or if a pregnancy is caused by rape reported to law enforcement. There is no exception for pregnancies caused by incest.
The clinic’s lawsuit cited a 1998 Mississippi Supreme Court ruling that the state constitution invokes a right to privacy that “includes an implied right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.”
The state attorney general’s office argued that the 1998 ruling was rooted in U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 1973 and 1992 that established or protected the right to abortion, but were overturned on June 24. But Rob McDuff, a Mississippi Center for Justice attorney representing the clinic, argued that state judges never said their decision was made because of the federal constitution.
“They never said it would evaporate if Roe was ever canceled,” McDuff said in court Tuesday.
The state attorney general’s office said the Mississippi constitution does not recognize the right to abortion and the state has long restricted the procedure.
“Over the past two weeks, the state of the law has changed dramatically,” state Solicitor General Scott Stewart said in court on Tuesday.
The lawsuit was filed three days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in a case originating in Mississippi.