Judge blocks 15-week abortion ban in ruling filled with pro-abortion talking points
MISSISSIPPI, November 21, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge in Mississippi has blocked that state’s ban on abortion at 15 weeks, with a written opinion that trades legal analysis for ideological arguments and political talking points.
In March, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed HB 1510, which prohibits abortions from being committed past 15 weeks for any reason other than physical medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormalities. The pro-abortion Center of Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit on behalf of Women’s Health Organization in Jackson within an hour of the signing, and the next day, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves issued a temporary restraining order against enforcing the law.
Bryant was undeterred, saying a law “saving more of the unborn than any state in America” was “worth fighting over” in court. House Speaker Philip Gunn agreed that the state was “absolutely” ready to take on the costs of a legal battle, because “I don't know if you can put any value on human life.”
Reeves handed down his ruling that HB 1510 is unconstitutional Tuesday, concluding that it “unequivocally” violates not only Supreme Court precedent but allegedly the 14th Amendment.
“There is no legitimate state interest strong enough, prior to viability, to justify a ban on abortions,” he claimed, noting that Mississippi already has a “trigger law” in place that would automatically ban abortion days after Roe being overturned.
“The state chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to endorse a decades long campaign, fueled by national interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Reeves claimed. “This court follows the commands of the Supreme Court and the dictates of the United States Constitution, rather than the disingenuous calculations of the Mississippi Legislature.”
In fact, evidence suggests pre-born babies are capable of feeling pain prior to viability. The 14th Amendment does not contain a right to abortion; some scholars even argue that its equal-protection guarantees require states to forbid abortion.
Reeves, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, went far beyond disputing the law’s constitutionality at multiple points.
He said pro-life lawmakers’ professed concern for women’s health was insincere “gaslighting,” claiming they “choose not to lift a finger to address the tragedies lurking on the other side of the delivery room, such as high infant and maternal mortality rates.” Instead, he alleged, Mississippi pro-lifers are “bent on controlling women and minorities.”
The judge also invoked identity politics, calling it a “sad irony” that “men, myself included, are determining how women may choose to manage their reproductive health.”
“As a man, who cannot get pregnant or seek an abortion, I can only imagine the anxiety and turmoil a woman might experience when she decides whether to terminate her pregnancy through an abortion,” Reeves wrote. “Respecting her autonomy demands that this statute be enjoined.”
The notion of a “bodily autonomy” right to abortion is a contemporary philosophical construct not rooted in the United States’ legal history. A prenatal right to life is, however.
“[William] Blackstone specifically states that the unalienable right to life belongs to unborn children who reside in their mothers’ wombs,” National Institute of Family and Life Advocates president Thomas Glessner told LifeSiteNews in 2016, discussing the English jurist who set the foundation of the Founding Fathers’ legal reasoning. “Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, studied Blackstone for his legal education and training and thus understood that the unalienable right to life belongs to the unborn as well as the born.”
Current judicial precedent says that abortion cannot be banned prior to fetal viability, and in 2014 the Supreme Court refused to consider the constitutionality of a 20-week ban in Arizona. However, lawyers with the Life Legal Defense Foundation note that the Court has also acknowledged a “compelling interest in protecting the unborn child” as pregnancy progresses, particularly on criteria like fetal pain.
Pro-life supporters of 15-week bans and laws protecting babies with beating hearts argue that, with President Donald Trump’s two Supreme Court nominees so far theoretically moving the court in a more conservative direction, now is the time to force a challenge to Roe’s standing.
Bryant “fully supports the defense of this law moving forward,” a spokesman for the governor told the Associated Press Wednesday, though the state’s next move is complicated by the fact that Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood is the one with the power to appeal.
Hood has represented pro-life cases in the past, but has also downplayed abortion as a “divisive social issue” and said HB 1510 would be challenging to defend because “we know that bans below 20 weeks have been struck down.”