A bill has been introduced in the Mississippi legislature to prohibit abortions being performed because of race, sex, or genetic abnormality, citing anti-discrimination laws and a recent opinion of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
House Bill 1295, the Life Equality Act of 2020, passed through a House committee March 3 and will soon be proposed to the state’s House of Representatives.
“It is the intent of the Mississippi Legislature … to prohibit the practice of nontherapeutic or elective abortion for the purpose of terminating the life of an unborn human being because of that human being's race, sex, or the presence or presumed presence of a genetic abnormality,” the bill reads.
A physician who performs an abortion prohibited by the bill would be guilty of a felony, and face one to 10 years in prison, and would have their medical license supended or revoked. Women who procured such abortions would not face prosecution, and there would be an exception for medical emergencies.
House Judiciary B Committee Chairman Nick Bain, a Republican from Corinth, highlighted the state’s strong pro-life commitment.
“We have had a solid record of supporting pro-life measures, and we wanted to continue that,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
The bill's findings quote extensively from Justice Thomas' concurring opinion in Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc., in which he wrote at length about a similar Indiana law which he said promotes “a State’s compelling interest in preventing abortion from becoming a tool of modern-day eugenics.”
“The United States Supreme Court has been ‘zealous in vindicating the rights of people even potentially subjected to race, sex, and disability discrimination,’” HB 1295 states, quoting Thomas' opinion.
“The inherent right against discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or genetic abnormality is protected in federal and state laws,” the bill notes, adding that “Notwithstanding these protections, unborn human beings are often discriminated against and deprived of life.”
Under current Mississippi law, abortions are legal until 20 weeks of pregnancy. The state requires minors seeking an abortion to receive permission from a parent or judge. There is also a 24 hour waiting period after the request for the abortion.
Over a dozen states have passed a similar bill or portions of the bill introduced in Mississippi. Nine states have banned abortions based on sex, two states have prohibited the procedure based on race, and two states have outlawed abortions on the basis of fetal abnormalities.
The only state with a ban on all three reasons is Missouri. Kentucky has also passed a ban on all three but the law has been put on hold by a court.
A federal judge blocked in December a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks. Then-Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, signed the bill into law in 2018.
Due to changes in the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court, both foes and supporters of legal abortion anticipate any decision on abortion could overturn or significantly modify existing precedent that, with few restrictions, mandates legal abortion across the U.S.
“We will sustain our efforts to fight for America’s unborn children,” Bryant said on Twitter Dec. 13. “Mississippi will continue this mission to the United States Supreme Court.”