Mississippi is on its way to being the first state in the nation to ban abortions after 15 weeks.
On Feb. 2, the Mississippi House of Representatives passed House Bill 1510, which would prohibit abortions after 15 weeks’ gestation, in a vote of 79 to 31. The bill would still need to be passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Phil Bryant to become law.
“As I have repeatedly said, I want Mississippi to be the safest place in America for an unborn child,” Gov. Phil Bryant said in a Mississippi Today article. “House Bill 1510 will help us achieve that goal, and I am grateful the House passed it. I look forward to signing it once the Senate follows suit.”
Mississippi, along with several other states, passed a bill in 2014 that banned abortions after 20 weeks. Exceptions to the law included if the pregnancy endangered the health of the mother and the fetus. The new bill would have similar exceptions.
Currently there is only one clinic that provides abortions in Mississippi, and it’s located in Jackson.
There is only one Planned Parenthood in Mississippi, located in Hattiesburg, but it does not provide abortions. It will, however provide a referral list of health care providers that offer abortion services in the patient’s area if there are any.
Here in Oxford, there is a nonprofit pregnancy center that provides urine pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, prenatal vitamins and focuses on a woman’s options other than abortion.
“We were formed over 20 years ago for the purpose of providing emotional, practical and spiritual support for women and their families who find themselves in an unintended pregnancy,” said Rebecca Bishop, executive director of the Pregnancy Center of Oxford. “We are solely supported by local churches and individuals who value the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.”
Bishop said that although she would like to see abortion outlawed all together, she is proud of the state representatives who authored the bill and looks forward to seeing HB 1510 go into effect after the signature of the governor.
“I am praying for the day when abortions are completely banned altogether and are made unavailable because we, as a pro-life Christian community, have worked to create a culture of life where abortion is unthinkable because pregnant women have the support they need to carry their children to term and parent them or make adoption plans for them,” Bishop said. “I would be proud to say I am from the state with the most pro-life laws.”
Pregnancy Center of Oxford plans to continue normal operations whether or not the bill becomes a law.
About an hour north of Oxford is Planned Parenthood of Memphis, which serves about 9,000 patients a year, 13 percent of whom are from Mississippi according to Aimee Lewis, vice president of external affairs.
Planned Parenthood offers a range of reproductive health services including annual exams, cancer screenings, contraception, STI testing and treatment, HIV counseling and testing, pregnancy testing and options counseling and medication and surgical abortion.
Lewis said she believes Mississippi imposing a 15-week abortion ban should be illegal and would negatively impact women in the state.
“A 15-week abortion ban is an unconstitutional attempt by opponents to impose restrictions on access to safe and legal abortion,” Lewis said. “Abortion is a deeply personal, often complicated decision for a woman to make. These decisions should be made by a woman, in consultation with her doctor, her family and her faith – not by politicians.”
Lewis said she believes abortions should remain a safe and legal medical procedure for women across the country.
“Politicians should not be involved in a woman’s personal medical decisions about her pregnancy,” she said.
Lewis said Planned Parenthood of Memphis plans to continue to serve patients from Mississippi in whatever capacity it can.
She said Planned Parenthood is proud to serve Mississippians and believes all women and families deserve the highest quality of care regardless of where they live.
“We know that when people are truly cared for, they make their lives, their families and their communities better and healthier. Our doors are open to everyone – no matter their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, income, country of origin or zip code – no matter what,” Lewis said.