The Mississippi House of Representatives [official website] approved a measure [HB 1400] on Thursday banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. According to the legislation, the bill was introduced out of concern that a fetus can feel pain by 20 weeks gestation. House member Andy Gipson [personal website], author of HB 1400, said [video] the only exceptions to the proposed ban are "for the life of the mother or in a case where the baby just can't live regardless of medical treatment." In a statement Thursday, Gipson asserted that medical evidence shows that "the unborn at this age can feel pain" and that the proposed law would help to protect the unborn and their mothers. The bill, which passed the House with an 89-22 vote, heads to the Republican-led state Senate [official website] where it is likely to pass next month. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant [official website] is expected to sign the bill into law [Reuters report].
Since abortion became legal in the US in 1973, it has been a highly-debated issue [JURIST backgrounder] with many conservative states continually attempting to restrict, if not outlaw, its occurrence. Mississippi is one more in a series of states, including Alabama, Indiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas [JURIST reports], that have passed similar abortion restrictions. If the bill becomes law, Mississippi will become the thirteenth state to enact a 20-week abortion ban since 2010, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights [advocacy website]. Last month, the US Supreme Court declined [JURIST report] to rule on Arizona's attempt to revive its 20-week ban on abortions after having been stuck down by a federal appeals court.