A near-total ban on abortion will become law in Mississippi in 10 days after Attorney General Lynn Fitch published a bulletin with the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office this morning certifying that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade.
The certification paves the way for a 2007 trigger law to become effective on July 7, 2022; it will “prohibit abortions in the state of Mississippi” at any stage “except in cases where necessary for the preservation of the mother’s life or where the pregnancy was caused by rape.” In order to obtain an abortion under the law, a rape victim must have reported the assault to law enforcement.
Anyone violating that law by providing an abortion could face up to 10 years in prison, the same as Mississippi’s pre-Roe v. Wade abortion laws. At Fitch’s urging, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Republican-appointed majority overturned the 49-year-old precedent on June 24, 2022, and upheld Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
A ‘Post-Roe World’
Friday’s ruling immediately banned most abortions after 15 weeks, but the much harsher 2007 law will force the state’s only abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, to completely cease providing abortions on July 7.
“Mississippi’s laws to promote life are solid and thanks to the Court’s clear and strong opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, they can now go into effect,” Fitch, a Republican and the first Mississippi woman to serve as attorney general, said in a statement this morning. “As we have said throughout this case, Roe v. Wade presented a false choice between a woman’s future and her child’s life.
“As we proceed in this post-Roe world, the people of Mississippi and of all the states will be able to fully engage in the work of both empowering women and promoting life. I am grateful that the court has given us this opportunity.”
Mississippi boasts the nation’s highest infant mortality rate, highest fetal mortality rate, lowest overall life expectancy rate, highest COVID-19 death rate and does not guarantee paid leave for new mothers or parents. The state also boasts a high maternal mortality rate, with significantly worse outcomes for women of color.
On the day of the ruling, the Mississippi Abortion Access Coalition decried the opinion Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, but noted that abortion “is legal in Mississippi today and for a short period of time.”
“If you have an appointment for an abortion, keep it,” the group said.
At the time, the coalition predicted that the trigger law could have gone into effect as soon as July 4 if Fitch had published the same day the Dobbs opinion came down, but the delay allowed three more days for most abortions to continue.
GOP Could Repeal Rape Exceptions
The Susan B. Anthony List, a national anti-abortion organization that backed Fitch in her 2019 campaign for attorney general, celebrated the trigger law’s certification today.
“We rejoice with Attorney General Fitch and the people of Mississippi as their right to protect unborn babies and honor mothers in the law is restored. … Attorney General Fitch’s bold leadership played an instrumental role in this human rights victory and we’re proud to stand together,” the group said in a statement.
In her own statement this morning, Fitch said that under the Supreme Court’s ruling, Mississippi’s trigger law “would be upheld.”
The state lawmaker who sponsored Mississippi’s 2007 trigger law, Republican Sen. Joey Fillingane, told the Mississippi Free Press last month that he would like to introduce legislation to strip exceptions for rape from the law, leaving abortion as an option only to preserve the life of a pregnant person. Fillingane’s 2007 trigger law earned approval from a majority of lawmakers at a time when Democrats still controlled both the Mississippi House and Mississippi Senate.
Republicans Want Federal Abortion Ban
Though the Dobbs ruling allows states to make their own abortion laws, some Republicans are already pushing for a national abortion ban. In 2011, Mississippi residents voted against the Personhood Amendment, a state ballot initiative that would have banned abortions from the moment of fertilization.
But 163 Republican members of Congress, including all three Republican U.S. House representatives from Mississippi and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, are currently co-sponsoring a federal “Life at Conception Act” that would similarly ban abortions from the moment of fertilization nationwide.
While federal abortion restrictions are unlikely while Democrats control Congress and the White House, Republicans could change that if they reclaim control in the 2022 and 2024 elections.