The Republican governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, signed a bill Thursday banning abortions past the point in pregnancy where a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
During the signing ceremony, Bryant called the heartbeat “the universal hallmark of life since man’s very beginning.”
“We’re going to try to protect that child whenever we can,” said the governor. “We think that this is showing the profound respect and desire of Mississippians to protect the sanctity of that very unborn life whenever possible.”
The law, the latest in a string of similar bills in other states, is expected to face legal challenges from abortion-rights groups before July 1, when it is scheduled to go into effect. Such groups immediately blasted the bill, saying it infringes on a woman’s right to choose to obtain the procedure.
“The term ‘heartbeat bill’ is a manipulative misnomer. These bills actually rob women of their choice to have an abortion before they even know they’re pregnant,” said the Center for Reproductive Rights said, which has announced plans to sue the state over the new law.
“We will all answer to the good Lord one day. I will say in this instance, ‘I fought for the lives of innocent babies, even under the threat of legal action,” Bryant wrote in a tweeted response to the group.
At least ten other red states are hoping that legal challenges to their own “heartbeat bills” will lead to a Supreme Court case that could overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion in the U.S. The governor of Iowa also signed such a bill into law last year, but it was dismantled by a state court. Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, Florida, and South Carolina are among the states considering similar bills.