Appeals court won't rehear Mississippi 15-week abortion case
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A federal appeals court said Friday that it will not reconsider its ruling that Mississippi's law banning most abortions after 15 weeks is unconstitutional.
The 2018 state law remains blocked and Mississippi's only abortion clinic remains open. The owner has said the clinic d oes abortions up to 16 weeks.
Mississippi is likely to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case.
The state is also engaged in a separate legal fight over a 2019 law that would ban most abortions at six weeks.
With the addition of conservative justices to the Supreme Court in recent years, Mississippi is one of several states that have enacted abortion restrictions. Some laws are aimed at spurring court challenges seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
The clinic sued Mississippi shortly after then-Gov. Phil Bryant signed the 15-week ban. The law has never taken effect because U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled it was unconstitutional.
On Dec. 13, a three-judge panel of the conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Reeves ruled correctly.
On Dec. 27, Mississippi asked the entire appeals court to reconsider the case.
The court on Friday denied that request.
Bryant said in December that he wants Mississippi to take the 15-week case to the the U.S. Supreme Court He left office when his second term expired Tuesday. The new Republican governor, Tate Reeves, was lieutenant governor when the 15-week ban was passed, and he supported it.
Tate Reeves and Carlton Reeves are not related.
A central question in the case is about viability — whether a fetus can survive outside the woman at 15 weeks. The clinic presented evidence that viability is impossible at 15 weeks, and the appeals court said that the state “conceded that it had identified no medical evidence that a fetus would be viable at 15 weeks.”
The Mississippi law would allow exceptions to the 15-week ban in cases of medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality. Doctors found in violation of the ban would face mandatory suspension or revocation of their medical license.
The 5th Circuit is based in New Orleans and handles cases from Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. It is generally considered one of the most conservative federal appellate courts.
Judge Reeves' ruling on the Mississippi law also put a similar law in Louisiana on hold. The 15-week abortion ban signed by Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2018 included a provision that the law would take effect only if a federal court upholds Mississippi's 15-week ban.
Judge Reeves also blocked Mississippi's six-week ban on abortion.