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Lawmakers at the State Capitol are closing in on the finish of the 2019 legislative session. Among the bills being considered are separate measures in the House and Senate involving pay raises for teachers.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has said he would sign a bill that has passed the state Legislature, a bill that would set further restrictions on abortions in the state. It would make the state among the toughest in the nation to get the procedure, but may also place the state on a road involving court fights by opponents of the move. 

Final passage of Senate Bill 2116, also known as the Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Bill, came in the House last week and the Senate provided its final concurrence this week before sending it the governor.

The bill would prohibit an abortion of an unborn baby with a detectable fetal heartbeat at six weeks of pregnancy, except when a medical emergency makes it necessary.

It was introduced early in the legislative session back in January and initially passed the Senate on Feb. 13, which then sent it to the House. After an amendment was adopted on March 11, the House voted in favor of the bill, sending it back to the Senate for final concurrence.

DeSoto County legislators came up solidly in favor of the bill. Additional authors of Senate Bill 2116 were state Sens. Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven), David Parker (R-Olive Branch) and Chris Massey (R-Nesbit). State Sen. Angela Burks Hill (R-Picayune) was the principal author of the measure, which was sent to the House on a 34-14 vote.

In the House, five representatives from DeSoto County voted for it, but state Rep. Robert Foster (R-Hernando) was listed as absent or not voting.

The bill was lauded by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who, along with Foster and former Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. are running for the Republican nomination to replace Bryant, who is term limited this year.

“Mississippians value the sanctity of life and expect their elected leaders to fight for those beliefs,” Lt. Gov. Reeves said. “A beating heart clearly means life has begun and should be protected. I appreciate the work of both senators and representatives for getting this legislation to Gov. Bryant’s desk.”

However, the Center for Reproductive Rights sent a letter to Gov. Bryant after the final passage and urged that it be vetoed. The Center said it would sue if the governor signed the measure.

“This law would ban abortion before most women know that they’re pregnant,” said CRR Chief Counsel Elizabeth Smith in a statement. “Already, Mississippi has a slew of abortion restrictions and only one abortion clinic, making it nearly impossible to access abortion before six weeks of pregnancy. This new prohibition, at an even earlier stage of pregnancy, is blatantly unconstitutional and we have called on Gov. Bryant to veto it. If he does not, we are ready to take Mississippi to court to protect all women in the state.”

Mississippi would become the most restrictive state for abortions if the bill becomes law. However, challenges in the court have been successful, including an earlier case that had a federal justice striking down a 15-week ban, which passed in the 2018 session.

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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