Legislatures in New York and Virginia have this year considered taking radical steps in recent weeks on the issue of abortion. A measure now in a Mississippi House committee and introduced by a DeSoto County legislator would take a 180-degree turn away from those measures.
The Virginia state legislature saw a bill introduced that would allow a fetus to be aborted, even as late as the 40th week of pregnancy, so long as a single doctor approved. The state’s governor was on record as being in support of the measure.
New York lawmakers recently celebrated a similar measure being passed in the state Senate and backed by that state’s governor.
Known as the Mississippi Heartbeat Abortion Ban bill, state Rep. Robert Foster (R-Hernando), also a candidate for his party’s nomination for governor, said Friday the bill that he has authored would do the opposite.
“It will ban any abortion after a heartbeat is detected on an unborn child unless the mother’s life is at risk,” Foster said by phone Friday.
Under the Heartbeat Abortion bill, which is listed as HB 529 in the state House, an effort would have to be made to detect a fetal heartbeat before an abortion is considered. If a heartbeat is heard, an abortion could not happen from that point unless the mother’s health is in danger, said Foster. He added the bill is not directly in response to the moves made in New York and Virginia, but those actions may make passage in Mississippi more favorable this time.
“I’ve dropped this bill last year and this year, so I’ve been pushing for this before that, but I think with the timing of what’s happening there (in New York and Virginia) makes this definitely a polar opposite direction from what they’re doing,” Foster said.
Penalties for doctors who perform abortions after a heartbeat is detected would range from up to two years in prison and/or a $25,000 fine. The violation would be considered a felony.
Foster said he was hopeful of passage.
“I believe it does because of what’s happening in New York and in Virginia,” Foster said. “They’re pushing the limits in the complete opposite direction constitutionally and I believe we should push the other direction in Mississippi.”
The bill is now in the Judiciary A Committee but Foster said it faces a deadline that is coming up soon.
“We need people to be aware that it is sitting in committee and I believe the deadline is early next week for it to come out of committee,” Foster said. “Whatever side of the issue people are on, it is a serious issue and worth discussion."
The Hernando Republican said he believed potential court fights if the bill is passed should not lessen the importance of the issue.
“The first thing that some people may say is that it’s going to be challenged in the courts if we pass this and cost us state money to defend it,” Foster noted. “To that, I say that some things are worth fighting over and I think fighting over unborn children is one of them.”
Late last year, a federal judge struck down a 15-week Mississippi abortion ban, one of the most restrictive in the country. The bill was signed last March by Gov. Phil Bryant and the federal judge’s ruling was appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in December by Attorney General Jim Hood, who is also a candidate for governor in this year’s elections.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.