The Mississippi Senate [official website] voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a bill [HB 1400] that would ban abortions as early as 18 weeks. The House version of the bill that was passed [JURIST report] last month would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Though the House bill calculated [AP report] pregnancy as beginning when the embryo implants itself in the uterus, the Senate amended its version at the last minute to change the calculation from when a woman's last menstrual period ended. Senator Joey Fillingale stated that the change is meant to align the bill with those enacted in neighboring states such as Texas and Louisiana. Before becoming law, the bill will have to go to a House-Senate conference in order to reconcile the differences.
Since abortion became legal in 1973, reproductive rights [JURIST backgrounder] in the US have been controversial, with many states enacting measures to restrict access to abortion. In recent years, Alabama, Indiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas [JURIST reports] have passed laws similar to the one currently being debated in Mississippi. Earlier this week lawmakers in West Virginia approved [JURIST report] a ban on abortions after 20 weeks. In January the US Supreme Court [official website] declined to review Arizona's attempt to revive its 20-week abortion ban after it was struck down [JURIST reports] by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] last May. In June the US House of Representatives [official website] voted [JURIST report] in favor of a bill which would ban abortions after 20 weeks throughout the country. However, the bill has failed to gain support [WP report] in the US Senate [official website].