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Federal Judge Blocks Mississippi Abortion Law

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A federal judge on Friday blocked enforcement of a new Mississippi law that bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

“By banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, the law prevents a woman’s free choice, which is central to personal dignity and autonomy,” wrote Judge Carlton Reeves of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, an Obama appointee, in a preliminary injunction.

The law “threatens immediate harm to women’s rights, especially considering most women do not seek abortion services until after 6 weeks [roughly the time at which a fetal heartbeat is first detected]” Reeves wrote. “This injury outweighs any interest the state might have in banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.”

Mississippi’s stringent ban does not include exceptions for cases of rape and incest, but does include an exception for cases when the life or a major bodily functions of the mother are threatened. Doctors who perform abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable risk having their state medical licenses revoked under the law, which was set to take effect in July.

Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, North Dakota, and Ohio have also recently passed bills banning abortions after only a few weeks, and Alabama passed a bill prohibiting the procedure at any point except when the life of the mother is threatened, the most restrictive such ban in the nation.

Pro-life advocates hope court challenges to the unusually strict state laws will eventually reach the Supreme Court, where a new conservative majority will consider overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that legalized abortion nationwide.

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