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On National TV, Gov. Reeves Evades Questions on Contraception, Incest, Deformities

screenshot shows Jake Tapper with Tate Reeves
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves told CNN’s Jake Tapper that banning contraception "is not what we are focused on at this time” during an interview on Sunday, May 8. Reeves said he believes “life begins at conception,” a view held by proponents of the 2011 Personhood Amendment which would have banned several forms of contraception, including IUDs and Plan B. Screencap courtesy CNN

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves left viewers unclear on his views about banning contraception during interviews on two national TV shows Sunday morning. The interviews on CNN and NBC focused primarily on the fact that Mississippi appears set to succeed in its effort to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade’s precedent that abortion is a fundamental right. 

After a draft of the Supreme Court opinion leaked, Republican lawmakers in Louisiana advanced an abortion ban that, if enacted into law, would make abortion a homicide and criminalize certain forms of contraception, including IUDs and Plan B.

“If there is legislation brought to you to ban contraception, would you sign it?” NBC News Meet The Press host Chuck Todd asked Mississippi’s governor Sunday.

“Well, I don’t think that’s going to happen in Mississippi. I’m sure they’ll have that conversation in other states,” Reeves said.

“But you’re not answering the question. Would you sign it?” Todd asked.

“Well, that’s always the case. There’s so many things we could talk about,” the Mississippi governor replied, changing the subject to focus on millions the state has allocated for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy resource centers.

Reeves: ‘Life Begins at Conception’

Reeves told Todd he believes “that clearly a life begins at conception.” In 2011, a 58%-majority of Mississippians rejected the Personhood Amendment, which would have banned abortions from the moment of fertilization. 

Opponents pointed out that the Personhood Amendment would have banned IUDs and other contraceptives that do not prevent the fertilization of an egg, but do prevent it from implanting and becoming a pregnancy. 

a photo shows a woman in a pink, blue and green mask wearing a vest that says "CLINIC ESCORT" while standing outside the pink painted gate of a pink building with a green roof.
A majority of the U.S. Supreme Court intends to overturn Roe v. Wade, ending abortion rights in much of the country, according to a leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that Politico reported on May 2, 2022. Pictured here, Clinic escorts stand stationed in the parking lot and near the entrance to the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, to help patients enter the clinic while avoiding the anti-abortion activists outside on the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade on Jan. 22, 2022. Photo by Ashton Pittman

In Congress, Mississippi Republicans have signed onto an effort to enact a national “Life at Conception Act” that would similarly grant protections to embryos and fetuses from the moment of conception.

In a leaked National Republican Senatorial Committee memo on how to talk about abortion after the leak of the draft Supreme Court decision, the party urges officials to emphasize that “Republicans DO NOT want to take away contraception” and that “states should have the flexibility to implement reasonable restrictions.” Axios reported the leaked document last week.

As during his interview on NBC, Reeves evaded a question about banning contraception during an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“That is not what we are focused on at this time,” Reeves said. “We’re focused on seeing what the court allows for. The bill that is before the court is a 15-week ban. We believe that overturning Roe is the correct decision by the court.”

In later tweets Sunday afternoon, Reeves said he is “not interested in banning contraceptives” and blamed “the left” for steering the conversation toward the issue.

Trigger Law Could Imprison Doctors

During their interview, Tapper also asked the governor about Mississippi’s 2007 trigger law that will implement a near-total abortion ban after the Mississippi attorney general files documentation confirming that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade. Democrats controlled the Mississippi House at the time of the law’s approval, while Republicans controlled the Mississippi Senate and governorship.

a photo of activists holding pro-abortion rights signs near a street preacher who holds a sign saying "Heaven or Hell?"
Abortion rights activists clashed with a group of street preachers when they held a protest in Jackson to show support for abortion rights on Oct. 3, 2021. Photo by Ashton Pittman

The trigger law allows exceptions for abortion only “in the case where necessary for the preservation of the mother’s life or where the pregnancy was caused by rape,” but “rape shall be an exception to the prohibition for an abortion only if a formal charge of rape has been filed with the appropriate law enforcement official.” Republican Mississippi Sen. Joey Fillingane, the primary sponsor of the trigger law, told the Mississippi Free Press last week that he believes there should be no rape exceptions.

“Assuming the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the State of Mississippi will force girls and women who are the victims of incest to carry those children to term,” Tapper said during his interview with Gov. Reeves on Sunday. “Can you explain why that is going to be your law?”

“Well, that’s going to be the law because in 2007 the Mississippi Legislature passed it,” the governor said, adding that most abortions “are elective procedures” and saying that incest accounts for only a small percentage of abortions nationwide.

Tapper also asked Reeves about the lack of an exception for abortions in cases of severe fetal abnormalities, but the governor again focused on the fact that such cases are rare without directly addressing the question.

The NRSC memo says Republican officials should emphasize that they do not want to put women or doctors in jail. Reeves told Tapper that he does not “think that you’re gonna see doctors performing abortions if we have a state statute which says that they’re not allowable.” 

Under Mississippi’s trigger law, though, a doctor providing abortions could face up to 10 years in prison.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Mississippi case that appears set to overturn Roe v. Wade, will likely come by the end of June.

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